One book of the Bible I have never spent much time with is Lamentations. With a title like that it doesn’t sound like a book of encouragement, or praise. And it isn’t! But it may be useful to look at during these times. It was written just after Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 BC. So I thought I would offer a few verses from the first chapter, to see how we identify with the writer, beginning in 1: 1, How deserted lies the city, once so full of people! This was more accurate in the summer when the roads were deserted, but if you take a walk around the high streets with the shops mostly closed, this is how it seems.
Then v4, The roads to Zion mourn, for no one comes to her appointed festivals. We had this with Easter, Pentecost and Christmas. That had to be the smallest congregation I have ever had at a Carol Service. I’ve wondered about the importance of Christmas with the will we/won’t we anticipation. There was little concern about Church services going ahead – they were allowed anyway. The concern was with whether we would see family. I would have expected a bigger congregation on Christmas Day – at least some time in the day when we didn’t need to be alone! Christmas has become more of a family festival than a Christian festival.
And then v16, No one is near to comfort me, no one to restore my spirit. This verse may be the one that applies in all 3 lockdowns. The isolation, the aloneness. I’ve always liked the Desert Fathers and Mothers and the Christian Hermits. I’ve found those people easier to identify with. But it seems that most people identify with the dogma that we are social creatures and isolation is bad for us, so I bow to the majority.
Lamentations is lamenting the judgement of God on Israel for her repeated sins. I don’t believe Covid-19 is God’s judgement for the world’s sins, but it is part of the judgement of Genesis 2-3. We have, as a world, and sometimes as a Church, excluded God from our lives, from our thinking, from our planning. And now we find ourselves facing a pandemic that has us questioning our security, our present and our future. I have heard people with blind faith say that God will not let them get sick, but that is just delusion. We have a responsibility to live in a way that keeps everyone safe.
We now know the truth found in the letter of James, Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ (4: 13-15).
So maybe Lamentations is a book for our times. Maybe we should lament about the way we have lived without too much thought for God – if that is the case.
Life for the author hadn’t gone the way he had thought it would; his plans came to nothing. And life is like that. He considered the Word of God and considered his life and this book was the result.
This is a good time to consider life. Is this where we expected to be? What happened to all our plans? John Lennon once said, “Life happens while you are making plans”, and so it does!
Maybe you are not where you thought you would be, or should be, at this stage in your life. But do you think God didn’t see this coming? I like those verses that remind us that God is outside of time, like Isaiah 46: 10, I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, “My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.
So keep on trusting in the God who knows what He is doing – even when it looks like it’s all going wrong. Even when we don’t know tomorrow, remember that God does. And lamenting is OK. And remember Psalm 30: 5, weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.