A Plea for Restoration
Lord, You are the author of my joy, the bearer of my pain. I come now to worship and adore You.
Read Lamentations 5:1-22
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
“Lamentations gives us permission to express our sorrow as we do, not as we ought to do. It is permitted to have sure faith in God one minute and be cast down in doubt the next” (William H. Willimon).
If you were to read this chapter aloud in Jewish worship, you’d repeat the next to last verse in order to end on a more positive note. The poem itself does not clear up all the problems or sum up all the perspectives on how we might cope with deep trauma. It does, however, point to the heart of the mystery: the nature of God, his ultimate sovereignty and freedom.
This last poem is not an acrostic, as are the others, but it does have 22 verses and, so, carries an echo of the structure of the other poems. The address is different, too; it’s a direct appeal to God and, so, feels more like a psalm than the other poems, even though the specific details refer back to earlier chapters (see, for example, Psa. 60). The balance, too, is more precarious: the list of disgraces at the hands of the conquerors runs to 18 verses, while there is only one positive verse (19), and the prayer for restoration in v. 21 is bracketed by doubts. One translator renders v. 22a, “Is this a final rejection?” It is a lover’s plea.
There is also profound learning about the true nature of God here; in some ways parallel to the lessons of ch. 3. The temple, the central sign of God’s presence, is destroyed. From that comes the recognition that God reigns forever on a throne that, unlike the one in Jerusalem, can’t be plundered (19). God’s answer to suffering is rarely an explanation; often it’s a hint of light. Faith amid great suffering means bringing to God our questions, our doubts and our longings (21), even when all still seems dark.
Ponder this: “How is it possible for people like us to stare tragedy in the face and to tell the truth about it? It is because Christians believe that…in the midst of mourning the worst tragedies, our God is there, with us” (William H. Willimon).
Loving Father, may loss, grief, and hardship be used to form me spiritually. May they drive me deeper into Your heart and do work of radical transformation in me.
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