What I’m Thinking: Lament

Biblical writers did not hide their sadness and grieving. Jeremiah shows us how.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the eighth chapter of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 8:18-9:1). It is one of Jeremiah’s warning oracles, but in this section that we’re reading for this Sunday Jeremiah turned to lament:

“My joy is gone, grief is upon me, my heart is sick.
Hark the cry of my poor people from far and wide in the land.”

Jeremiah 8:18-19

Most of most of chapter eight and indeed chapter nine consists of Jeremiah’s expression of God’s accusations against the people and the leadership of Judah, the things that they had done wrong. It consists as well of consequences to be expected if the people do not change their ways, if the leadership does not do right. Here in this section at the end of chapter eight and the beginning of chapter nine, Jeremiah turns to an expression of lament for the condition in which the people would find themselves if indeed they did not turn around.

In Jeremiah’s view, they never did. Jeremiah, in fact, experienced not one but two foreign invasions of his country, two sieges of his home city, two times in which the city surrendered and came under the oppression of a foreign power. It was in the second siege that Solomon’s temple was destroyed. Now, I can’t be entirely certain about when in his career Jeremiah wrote these words — Jeremiah had lots of reason for lament over the course of his life aside from the state of national affairs — and Jeremiah certainly anticipated, anticipated the need to lament.

I take the reminder from here that lament is… is one of those things that Scripture aids us deeply with. It is a feature of our era that we do not make time for lament willingly. We have no grieving periods; we do not wear black arm bands for a year after loved ones die. Instead, we are expected to pick up and make things all normal again within a remarkably short period. We ask the question, “How is so and so?” if we haven’t heard from them — that’s a good question — but should we really be surprised that the answer is “Not so well. Not so well”?

Let us take some wisdom from Jeremiah and from others of the prophets and the psalmists who knew that mourning, that grieving, that lament is an essential part of living, because times are hard and things do go bad. We lose jobs, we lose friends, we lose family. And so with Jeremiah we can lift our voices to God and ask:

“Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there?
Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored?
Oh that my head were a spring of water, and my eyes a fountain of tears,
so that I might weep day and night.”

Jeremiah 8:22-9:1

If you’re sad, my friends, lament and know that God hears.

That’s what I’m thinking. I’m curious to hear what you’re thinking. Leave me your thoughts in the comment section below; I’d love to hear from you.

Categories What I'm Thinking | Tags: , | Posted on September 12, 2022

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