Word for the Week
Short reflections on Bible passages, with a frontline focus...
‘You, LORD, reign for ever;
your throne endures from
generation to generation.
Why do you always forget us?
Why do you forsake us so long?
Restore us to yourself, LORD, that we may return;
renew our days as of old
unless you have utterly rejected us
and are angry with us beyond measure.’
That is the cry of Lamentations 5. In the book’s final chapter, the poet addresses God directly. Suffering in silence is not an option here. But nor, it seems, is a clear-cut answer. Lamentations ends not with a neat conclusion or a simple hope, but a question. The tension is left unresolved.
The possibility that God has forgotten his people is left open: ‘unless you have utterly rejected us and are angry with us beyond measure.’
Perhaps that’s how you feel today. Perhaps it’s how you’ve felt for a very long time. And although this poem may not offer you the hope you crave, it may offer you some words to use in prayer.
‘Joy has gone from our hearts;
our dancing has turned to mourning.’ (v. 15)
There is something powerful in simply naming your suffering before God. Perhaps in the presence of a friend, or perhaps just alone, on your knees, allowing the tears to flow. To name the feeling of rejection in the presence of the Lord is a powerful act of faith, even if at the time it just feels like complaining.
The author of Lamentations has chosen to end the book with a prayer. There is no attempt to change God’s mind, to force his hand, but instead a simple acknowledgement: God is God, he reigns forever, and one can never truly know what it is that he is doing.
Lamentations does not offer us a nice, neat conclusion. But it is not a nice, neat book – and with the depths of suffering that have been described, it would seem wrong for there to be simple answers to the big questions that it has raised.
The same can be said for our own suffering. So often there is not a nice, neat conclusion. So often, we end up with more questions than answers. But we, too, can cling to the statement in 5:19 – ‘you, LORD, reign forever; your throne endures from generation to generation’.
For even if there is only pain that surrounds, even if there are more questions than we know what to do with, even if it feels as if God has abandoned us in our pain… even if nothing else, we can stand on the firm foundation that the Lord reigns.
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