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The Place for Lament

How lonely sits the city that once was full of people! How like a widow she has become, she that was great among the nations! She that was a princess among the provinces has become a vassal. She weeps bitterly in the night, with tears on her cheeks; among all her lovers she has no one to comfort her; all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they have become her enemies. Judah has gone onto exile with suffering and hard servitude; she lives now among the nations, and finds no resting place; her pursuers have all overtaken her in the midst of her distress. The roads to Zion mourn, for no one comes to the festivals; all her gates are desolate, her priests groan; her young girls grieve, and her lot is bitter. Her foes have become the masters, her enemies prosper, because the Lord has made her suffer for the multitude of her transgressions; her children have gone away, captives before the foe. From daughter Zion has departed all her majesty. Her princes have become like stags that find no pasture; they fled without strength before the pursuer. Jerusalem remembers in the days of her affliction and wandering, all the precious things that were hers in days of old. When her people fell into the hand of the foe, and there was no one to help her, the foe looked on mocking over her downfall.

Lamentations 1:1-7 (NRSV)

Lamentations is a heartbreaking commentary on the state of Jerusalem after it fell to the Babylonians. Few people remained in the shattered city; the rest had died or gone onto exile and had no one to comfort them.

Collen Scheid, from Ohio, felt some of this pain when her church spilt. After so many people left their church in the city to start a new one in the suburbs, Colleen was heartbroken. She looked around their historic sanctuary, its stained glass windows shining over vacant pews. Their empty Sunday school hall echoed; with more teachers than children, it was all too quiet. It felt like God was no longer with them either; Colleen was tempted to despair. Just as the grieving prophet of Lamentations remembered his beautiful city, Colleen thought back on services filled with smiling people, children singing, and banners waving.

Lamentations offers us a map through grief. First, reality is faced boldly and loss felt bravely. Then that searing pain is brought to God. The prophet who wrote the book cries out, "See, Lord, how distressed I am! I am in torment within" (Lam.1"20). Only then can he move on to hope; only then can the rebuilding start. It is the same with Colleen. When something terrible happens, she cannot fully heal until she faces reality, pours out her pain, and leans into God's presence - even when God feels far away.

Prayer: Almighty God, help us to bring our pain and sorrow to you. Give us the courage to lament our losses and tell you how we really feel, in Jesus' name. Amen.


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