The below reflection includes pieces of the sermon manuscript, written by Pastor Mitchel Lee and Aubrey Sampson.
I often get stuck on the How.
How will this situation resolve? How is God allowing this to happen? How can I stop feeling this? How can I move as far away from this negative feeling or experience?
I so, so often forget the YET and WITH. And I think it’s because I sometimes forget, even for a split second, to look to God.
Have I lost you? If so, I think the best thing I could recommend is to WATCH THIS PAST WEEKEND’S GATHERING.
Let’s back up and remind ourselves – what is a lament? Lament is a cry of faith in the midst of trouble. It is a type of prayer or song, known simply as “an impolite plea or prayer.” It’s crying out to God in grief and pain.
Sounds timely, no? But the reality is, before coronavirus became a part of our everyday vocabulary, lament was likely something we all needed to know about. The need to lament just seems to be a little more exacerbated right now because of this global pandemic.
Sometimes we don’t know where to start, because we aren’t typically taught how to lament. Thankfully, Jeremiah gives us a pathway in Lamentations 3: HOW // YET // WITH.
- Jeremiah begins his lament by asking the question “how.” That’s how we begin our laments as well: ask God How.
- Let’s take a second to consider the beauty of this – that we are able to go to our creator, the God who literally created this entire world, who has all authority and power, whose holiness we cannot even fathom – allows us, wants us, invites us to ask him our How questions. He even gives us the biblical language of lament in order to do so!
- The intentional act of acknowledging that we have gnawing spiritual questions – that we have HOW questions – is enough to begin to experience God’s healing. So in this valley that we are all living in right now….let’s begin by asking God how.
- It’s important to note that the “how” we’re declaring isn’t the “how can I fix this?” We often think about all the ways and strategies to fix our situation. We use our power and our resources to get ourselves or someone else out of the valley. But that’s not lament. Lament is the cry of the powerless. Those whose only hope is God.
But this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Lam 3:21
(some translations say Yet, instead of But)
- The next thing that Jeremiah does, as he models lament for us, is to move from his Hows, his difficult feelings about God, to another place – to the Yet.
- Jeremiah is saying, Although everything around me is falling apart, although my family and friends and neighbors are suffering, although God is not acting in the way I want him to right now…. Yet I dare to hope! Why? Because of the never-ending faithfulness and unstoppable mercy of God.
- Yet is really the fighter’s prize of faith.
- Yet believes that even if it doesn’t go well with you, even if it’s all taken away, Jesus is enough.
- His love is more than enough.
- His mercies are more than enough.
- His salvation is more than enough.
- His victory.
- His death.
- His resurrection.
- His return.
- His presence and power are more than enough.
- His Spirit is more than enough.
- He is enough. Period.
Our hope as Christians is not in open doors or smooth sailing. Our hope is not in benefits or bonuses. Our hope is not in God improving our situations or making our paths straight. Those are all good things…God gives us good things because his love is lavish and abundant. But our hope is not in things. Our hope is found in nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. Jesus is our treasure. Jesus is our inheritance. Jesus is our crown of glory. Jesus is our prize and future hope.
When a global tragedy occurs like what we are all living through right now, we often wonder where God is. But that’s actually not the right question to be asking, because it assumes something false about God. It assumes we have a distant, a far-removed, God. But what we know, is through and in Jesus Christ, our God is an Emmanuel God, a “with us” God. We have a God who comes down, who sees, hears, draws near, calls us by name and comforts us with his presence, who gives us His own Spirit to dwell in us. When all is falling apart, God’s “withness” is with us.
Here’s what that means:
- If you feel alone right now, you are not alone.
- If you’re wondering if God sees you, He sees you.
- If you’re wondering if God hears your cries, He hears you.
- If you’re wondering if God is close, Psalm 34 reminds us, “God is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
- Jeremiah says God is with me; He hears me, He sees me, He delivers me.
Jesus took all of our pain and sorrow, sin and brokenness on himself, through the cross. Jesus drank the bitter cup of sorrow for us and because of his suffering we can know his presence – his “withness” – in ours. All laments, from Jeremiahs to yours, are answered in the lament-ending love of Jesus, who is at work right now making all things new.