Cherry, the canary delighted everyone with his pleasant, cheerful songs. Life was good for Cheery. His cage was large and filled with an abundance of food and toys to make his life enjoyable. His cheery songs delightfully filled the house.
Cheery never knew what hit him. He never saw it coming. One second he was cheerful, peacefully enjoying his perch. The next, without warning, he was sucked in, washed up, and blown over.
Cheery’s problems began when his owner decided to clean his cage with a vacuum cleaner. Just as she stuck the nozzle in the cage, the phone rang. As she turned to answer the phone, the nozzle turned and Cheery vanished into the vacuum cleaner.
Panic stricken the owner turned off the vacuum, opened the bag and found Cheery alive, looking confused and frightened. Since Cheery was covered with dust, she placed him under running water to remove the dust and dirt. Then, since Cheery was soaking wet and becoming cold, she warmed and dried him with her hair dryer.
A few days after the event a friend asked Cheery’s owner how the bird was recovering. “Well,” she replied, “Cheery doesn’t sing anymore – he just sits and stares.”
Think about it. He had been sucked in, washed up, and blown over. That would steal the song from the strongest heart.
When observing the suffering of the innocent or the death of a child, hearts cry out with questions about God’s handling of the world. In those times it is impossible to explain or answer “Why did this happen?” or “What result would justify this?” Lament is a word for this heart-felt challenge of God, his ability, his attitude, his wisdom and knowledge.
A lament asks such questions as: Can anything justify the evil which exists in the world? Why did God create a world in which evil seems almost overwhelming? Why permit destructive cyclones, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes and other natural disasters? A lament does not try to defend or justify God. It is a cry filled with pain, sorrow and often understandable anger.
(Following the example of Jesus, disciples commit to imitating his compassion for the hurting, and participating in the healing and sacrifice for redemption. )
A lament sees God as responsible for the world he created and how the world functions. It then might question whether God is love, is good, is involved in his creation or is even interested in the ones who are suffering. Accepting that God is interested and involved calls for the response that he permits, and in some circumstances causes suffering (Genesis 3:14-19; Habakkuk 1:6-11). How is this possible if God is good and loving? Does he have a reason for the suffering in the world which is beyond human understanding at the time? It cries: “I believe; help me overcome my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).
A lament is a response to suffering. It might contain the complaint that God is not doing enough (Psalm 74:11), or questions about “how long?” (Habakkuk 1:1-4), or a demand to have “Why?” questions answered (Psalm 10:1), or disappointment with God’s handling of the world (Job 21, 23-24). A lament is what the sufferers feel; it is a reasonable response to suffering. Most believers recognize that God does not need humans to give their arguments in his defense. Perhaps some need to hear a defense – maybe it would help, but it is usually inadequate in a time of grief or deep distress. God is willing to encounter (meet) people in their crises. Arguments will not make the difference; only God’s presence will. But, first the lament must be made, expressing the hurt and anger.
A lament is a cry for reason at a time when no reason seems reasonable. Yet, by faith believers can be confident that God has a good reason. We may never know what that reason might be. Hope for the sufferer is not the conclusion of well-reasoned arguments; it is rather the desperate cry of the sufferer who trusts that the Creator has a purpose for his creation. Believing that there is a purpose may give comfort in the time of sadness. Believers trust that God will create good out of evil. They trust that somehow God may even use their tragedy in transforming their world.
A lament is inadequate when human judgment becomes the standard to view God’s wisdom and knowledge. God’s wisdom and knowledge extend beyond the limitation of human understanding. Yet, the sufferers can trust that God intends to redeem, heal and renew this world.
Following the example of Jesus, disciples commit to imitating his compassion for the hurting, and participating in the healing and sacrifice for redemption. There is comfort in knowing that God loves us even though tears hinder our vision. God listens with understanding to our anger, protests and questions. God empathizes with our suffering through the cross of Jesus even though we feel that no one has suffered like us. God reigns over his world even when we can’t understand it. God will defeat suffering and is renewing his creation, even using our tragedies to transform it (Romans 8:18-25). Therefore, it is with hope that we grieve.
“Oh, the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” Romans 11:33-34; (NIV)
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