The story in Lamentations begins by declaring the stark loneliness that accompanies pain. Once full of people and relationships, the city is now desolate and lonely.
“How lonely sits the city that was full of people!” Lamentations 1:1
Stark and immediately changed. Vibrant city now barren. Sudden desolation. Instantaneous. A moment in time. I’m reminded of a song by Steven Curtis Chapman. He describes the onslaught of sudden loss by contrasting juxtaposed realities. He writes of his own sudden loss. Chapman laments:
“Well the band was playing, the flags were waving, and there you were in the middle of a sunny day parade. The crowds were cheering, the sky was clear. Not a worry in the world. … Then the lightning flashed, the thunder crashed, and suddenly it began to rain, and everybody ran. Then the sky went black as midnight, and you couldn’t see, paralyzed by what you just can’t understand…” Steven Curtis Chapman, “Take Another Step”
Chapman describes precisely what happened to the city in Lamentations. The city—once full of people—is now lonely, people-less. It gets worse. The city, described as a princess, has become enslaved. That’s a stark and definitive collapse of a city’s life. Paralyzed.
“…She who was a princess among the provinces has become a slave.” Lamentations 1:1
Shocking and sudden.
The sunny day parade has met thunder and abandonment. The city is transformed in a shocking manner from princess to slave. The city laments. She groans. Her heart seriously stumbles, and she is faint. Injured. Taken out.
“…my groans are many, and my heart is faint.” Lamentations 1:22
This is what suffering looks like. Pain is thrust to the forefront. Your lot is cast, and it’s not good. Your identity—all you’ve ever known—is changed in a moment. Once a princess, now a slave. Initial shock will quickly give way and grief and lament will begin uninvited. It happens to you. Groans and fainting give way to more concrete physical responses. The impact is undeniable.
“My eyes are spent with weeping; my stomach churns; my bile is poured out to the ground because of the destruction…” Lamentations 2:11
Grief begins to take shape. Weeping. Stressors. Physical illness. It’s decision time. Where will you turn? Away from God or to God?
The city in lament turns to God.
“Remember, O Lord, what has befallen us; look, and see our disgrace!” Lamentations 5:1
The psalmist would say, “How long, O Lord?” or “Why have you forsaken me?” Turning and complaining are important aspects of lament. It’s important for any of us facing loss to embrace the whole of lament. Individual parts of lament are incomplete. Mourners must press through and not abort the journey.
“The joy of our hearts has ceased; our dancing has been turned to mourning.” Lamentations 5:15
God knows your joy has taken a hit. He knows you’re not light on your feet anymore. He knows you’re in full-fledged grief. He knows you’re mourning. He is waiting for you to turn to him and even to complain to him. He will redeem the pain through relationship with himself. He wants you to come as a child to a father and make your requests. He desires for you to lovingly climb up into his lap.
According to Mark Vroegop, our Father wants you to turn to him, complain to him, ask of him, but fully trust him.
Lament—launched in loneliness—must follow the path all the way to absolute trust. Don’t sidestep grief. Embrace loss. Press into lament. But trust. A whole book in the Bible was given to tell a story of lament. Therefore, be restored and renewed by biblical lament.
“Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored! Renew our days as of old—unless you have utterly rejected us, and you remain exceedingly angry with us.” Lamentations 5:21-22