Today our reading from Job and Psalm 22 move us into an atmosphere of lament. The word lament means a passionate expression of grief or sorrow. The Psalms allow us to access this state of lament by transmitting to us ways of speaking that are appropriate to the extremities of human experience. In other words they give us the language to communicate our feelings when we are pushed to the very edges , the raw limits of our life. Our experiences and expressions of these times are firmly rooted in Old Testament language and stories, it is here where we can find biblical characters that have walked with God through suffering and confusion.
By entering into lament, an environment is created which allows the transactions of God’s grace into the situations that His people and communities cry out from. The function of lament, in my opinion, is to create a thin space that enables heaven and earth to converse, where the tangibility of God’s grace can touch the brokenness of His people.
If we see our life journey with God as one of Orientation (where everything seems great) – Disorientation (where things have changed and we feel in a state of crisis)- to Reorientation (where we are able to walk forward again in a new sense of direction) we are following the Old Testament blueprint of God’s redemptive grace. The blueprint I speak of is the crying out of the Israelites in their slavery, God hearing them and remembering His covenant, and delivering them out of slavery.
Embracing lament Psalms like Psalm 22 that we have heard this morning, teach us to stand boldly in front of God to invoke His answer and action in our lives. When we stand in a place of disorientation not knowing what we are to do, or we are suffering from unspeakable grief or hurt and looking down into the pit not knowing where to turn, our voices join those who have suffered and also cried out to God. In the space where we might have no words to speak to God through anger and doubt the lament psalms sing through our hurt to Him.
Job who cries out trying to find out where God is, Job says “if I go forward he is not there, or backward I cannot perceive him, Job cries out and by doing so sits faithfully in his disorientated existence waiting to see the signposts of God’s reorientation, to wait to feel and see God’s saving hand.
By the end of the book, God does indeed restore all that was taken from Job and restores it to him even more that he had before. Jobs story echos Jesus story who Himself cries out in the words of the Lament Psalm to His Father on the cross, the words of Psalm 22 “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” The Father raises Him and restores Him and even more as Jesus sits at His right hand side. If Jesus follows the Exodus blueprint of God’s saving nature, crying out in disorientation and then reorientated then we should also.
When things are difficult when live seems overwhelming it is in those times where crying out is absolutely necessary. There is no room for pride in journeying with God, we can open up our hearts and break down the barriers that are built up by human ego where we believe that not showing weakness is strength when in fact our saviour died in perfect weakness showing perfect strength.
Living a life with God is a daily resurrection experience where we find ourselves raised to obedience, hope, and power after being constrained by the darkness of the pit and the power of death.
Watching the news we see lots of terrible things going on, locally we hear of tragic stories. We also feel the pain of watching our churches close around us and seemingly not see a positive future moving forward.
The lament is an activity that we can do as a community, when we feel our movement from settled orientation into disorientation, our plea our crying out to God for His reorientation is needed, necessary, and part of our life living with God.
Seasons of sickness such as loneliness and abandonment, threat of enemies, shame and humiliation, call us to cry out, not because we have little faith but because we have faith in our God, our God with whom we have a deep relationship with, our God who brings us from brokenness to restoration.
What may that restoration look like? In truth we do not know because His ways are not our ways but restoration opens up the possibility of God doing something new, a radical newness as He breathes into our lives afresh.
In the bible, Israel were confident to speak their addresses of disorientation to God because they knew that He must respond due to the Exodus blueprint of deliverance. This boldness of faith, what we see in Job, what we saw as Jesus faced the cross, is ours also to follow.
The lament Psalms show us that we are not alone in our feelings, we are with the communion of saints who have called and cried out long before us.
I would like to invite you all to enter the space of the lament during our prayers shortly, urging you to cry out to God into the situations when you feel like you need His reorientation. Be confident in your prayers and concerns, God can take it, Jesus carried the weight of our sins on His shoulders, and let the Holy Spirit guide you in the ancient words of the psalmist,
Yet you are the Holy one, enthroned upon the praises of Israel, our forebears trusted in you they trusted and you delivered them, they cried out to you and were delivered they put their trust in you and were not confounded.