Lamentation for a Time of Crisis
This past Lent, several St. John’s members and friends participated in a study of the Old Testament Book of Psalms, using as our guide C. S. Lewis’s book, Reflections on the Psalms. We learned that about one-third of the 150 psalms are lamentations, where the psalmist speaks out to God stunned, sad and silenced by the tragedy and absurdity of human events. We lament so that we can experience the necessary pain of this world, the necessary sadness of being human.
A member of that book group, St. John’s parishioner and friend Judy Rose, emailed me with those thoughts and more during my COVID-19 isolation and recovery time. She included a piece called Lamentation Practice for a Time of Crisis, which is apparently part of a course she has taken called Disciples, Prophets and Mystics, and from which I have borrowed abundantly here. It is all particularly relevant to managing the time in which we now find ourselves, and I need to share some more of it with you.
With the topic of coronavirus and as its physical effects now pressing down hard on the very epicenter of our national government, can COVID-19 get any more political and contentious? Can someone who has actually had the virus or knows, or lives with, someone who has, accept the words spoken from on high (the Truman Balcony) that it’s no big deal, that it’s a gift from God, that it’s a blessing in disguise? Are those even the words of a clear-headed, rational person?
If you, like me, are taken aback by the chaos that permeates our political and socioeconomic systems right now, as we are already in the process of electing our next batch of government leaders, you may, like me, find a safety-valve in the Psalms of Lamentation, both in reading them and in incorporating lamentation into your own daily prayers, as a way to voice your own complaints, requests, and trust in God, who is always waiting to hear.
We forget that Jesus called weeping a “blessed” state (Matthew 5:5) and that only one book of the Bible is named after an emotion: Jeremiah’s book of “Lamentation.” We need to remember that God laments with us. God wants us to come to God’s presence in our anger, in our fear, in our loneliness, in our hurt, and in our confusion.
Each lamenting psalm begins with a complaint – that things are not as they should be. Then they turn to a request – God, do something! Rescue us! Heal us! Restore us! Have mercy on us! They end with an expression of trust, the reminder that God is setting things right, though this process may seem terribly slow.
If this interests you, please consider praying the words in Psalm 22, below, or choose another passage of lament. Either way, include your own personal, immediate lament, and praise God for all God’s glory and grace.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.
Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our fathers trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried and were rescued;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame
Have a safe and blessed week!