Lately, my attention has been drawn to ancient cultures and how they mourn. In Ancient Greece, the act of lamentation was especially important for people to move on after the death of a loved one—and to pay tribute to the deceased person.
Of course, this is also seen in the Bible. Ancient cultures experienced a very real attachment to public lamentation, and there are places in the world where this is still practiced today. In America, it seems as if we are not always given the space to experience the pain of loss, heartache and tragedy.
The book of Lamentations in the Bible is one that Christians, at times, seem to pass over. Lamenting is a process, and it’s a spiritual process, as well. We should feel the openness and opportunity to cry out to God, to ask “why,” and to bring Him into our suffering.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops defines The Book of Lamentations as “a collection of five poems that serve as an anguished response to the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 B.C.”
The Bible Project, a popular tool for people wanting to learn more about the basics of the Bible, says that the book is “an essential ingredient for helping humans to understand an important aspect of their relationship with God—the expression of grief and distress.”
Sometimes it’s easy to think that God doesn’t care about our hurt, or that He has bigger things to deal with. But the truth is that He wants to be close to us—even, and especially, in our heartache. When we cry out to Him, we are still allowing for a conversation to take place. We are opening a dialogue and even though it can be difficult it is ultimately going to remind us that we aren’t alone in our troubles.
In the first chapter of Lamentations, the city is described as crying. “Bitterly she weeps at night, tears are on her cheeks.” In Lamentations 2, we see a clear example of crying out to God, and also the explanation of the tragedy that has happened. Telling our stories—even when they are painful—can be healing. But we don’t have to cut God out of the story, even if we’re angry with Him, even when we don’t understand.
The speaker of the poem in Lamentations goes into detail of all the suffering the people have endured, and all of the destruction that has come to the city. There seems to be no room for joy or any light in the life of this person.
“Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the night watches! Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord! Lift your hands to him for the lives of your children, who faint for hunger at the head of every street.”
However, after all of this, the speaker realizes that the only thing that can make this terrible circumstance hopeful is remembering God’s sovereignty and power.
“My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, ‘My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord.'”
There is comfort found in remembering the qualities of God and how much He cares for us. When the circumstances of life are difficult and the future unknown, we can rest assured that God’s goodness never fails.
“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
No matter what you’re going through—whether you think it’s big or small or insignificant or the worst experience, God cares and there is hope to be found in Him.