I struggle with the ‘in all things give thanks’ piece of scripture. I know. I know. Many of us have read with poetic passion Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts and no doubt most of us think it is an amazing book. We marvel at how we feel as we begin to keep that journal and give thanks. Initially words fly onto the pages, our pens barely keeping up with the flowing ink.
And then life happens with all its fights, disease, chaos, uncertainty, and discord. And suddenly the pen feels heavy on our paper, the passion is gone. We shout “Where is Ann Voskamp when I need her?” (and Ann undoubtedly shouts back “You’re supposed to say “Where is God, NOT Where is Ann!”)
I think what I haven’t always understood is that lamenting, and by that I mean true grief over a broken world, a broken relationship, a death, is not complaining. Lamenting is aching for a world that is not as it should be. Lamenting is crying out to a God who cares that it’s not as it should be. Lamenting is giving appropriate voice to those things that disappoint, those things that grieve.
If God had wanted our constant happiness he would have created wind-up robots – instead he asks for our deepest trust, faith, and yes – a lamenting now and then. We have evidence of this through the book of Lamentations where the prophet Jeremiah laments for the fall of Jerusalem. He’s in solitude in a fixed posture of grief. He cries out to God with his whole being – from his toes to his nose. And through his cries we are given a portrait of one in anguish.
“He has filled me with bitter herbs and sated me with gall. He has broken my teeth with gravel; he has trampled me in the dust.I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity is. So I say, ‘My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the LORD.’ I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.”*
Laments can heal the soul because they take us back to God as God. While complaints lead us into an abyss of discontent and wondering why the manna went bad, laments get at the core of the human heart, the dilemma of living out truth in a broken world.
At the end of complaining is greater discontent; at the end of lamenting is the whisper of hope, for at the end of the bitterness and gall is this: “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.”*
*Lamentations 3: 15-20 *Lamentations 3:21,22
Blogger’s note – and today I am lamenting for Israel and Gaza as rockets fly and civilians are killed. My heart goes out to those who have already died with prayers for what seems an impossible peace.