Midweek 3 LSB #’s 435:1-3, 435:4, 433:1-4
Text – Job 3:25-26
What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me. I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.
Learning to Lament
There are parts of the United States that some people call “fly-over” country because they do not see these areas as being very exciting. You have to fly over them to get to other, more exotic places, like New York or LA. Without stepping on too many toes, I suggest that Iowa, Nebraska & Kansas are the top three fly-over states.
And, living in between cities like Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago & Cincinnati, we must admit that Indiana is definitely in the top ten.
Likewise, there are portions of the Bible that are considered “fly-over” books. Perhaps one of yours is Leviticus with all of its priestly jargon, or Numbers with all of its, well, numbers! 1 Chronicles is right up there in my list of “fly overs.” Why? It begins with nine chapters of genealogies. And then of course, for many, there are the OT laments.
Laments begin early in the OT. Rebekah cries, “If it is this way, why should I live?” (Genesis 25:22) Moses cries out, “O Lord, why have you mistreated this people?” (Exodus 5:22) Gideon complains, “If the Lord is with us, why has all of this happened to us?” (Judges 6:13) Sixty-five of the 150 psalms are psalms of lament.
Then there is an entire book in the OT called Lamentations. Heart-wrenching questions permeate. Why did this happen? Is there any order in the world? Where is God in all of this? Laments regard the abyss as bottomless & never ending. Hopelessness defines everything. Our collective response to all of these laments – Fly over!
We’d rather live by words like these: “Keep your chin up!” “No pain, no gain.” “Think
positively.” “Big boys don’t cry.” Don’t tell that to Job. After the numbed shock of 7 silent days & nights, as with a massive shriek, in chapter 3 Job breaks his silence. He uses words like darkness, shadow, night, blackness, death & grave. Five times Job cries out “Why?” “Why did I not perish at birth?” (Job 3:11) “Why were there knees to receive me?” (Job 3:12)
“Why was I not hidden in the ground like a stillborn child?” “Why is light given to those in misery?” (Job 3:20) “Why is life given to a man?” (Job 3:23) Job ends his lament with these words: “What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me. I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.” (Job 3:25–26)
After chapters 1 & 2 Job’s livelihood is in ruins. His family is dead. His health is broken & crushed. For relief, he scrapes his sores with shards of broken pottery. He has become an object of horror & a sickening sight. In chapters 1 & 2 Job is the model of godliness & patience, but in chapter 3 this man of God lets it all hang out.
He looked at all his hardship & hell yet he refused to “fly over.” We have much to learn from Job. I wish I could tell you that we can get past our sorrow by going around it, tunnel underneath or take a big jump over. But that’s not true. We cope with our sorrow by going through it. Notice that I’m not saying we get past our sorrow.
If the sorrow is deep enough, in this life we will never get past it. But we can get through it. That’s tough, though. Real tough. So we stuff it inside. We deny it. We try to survive life’s losses without lamenting. Grief is unpleasant & messy & ugly so we avoid it.
There are things that happened to us as children; there are things that happened to us at school; there are things that happened to us in marriage; & we have not grieved over the pain. We are stuck. Some of us are stuck at age 14 or age 28 or age 42, because we didn’t grieve a major loss in life. Now, we wonder why we have anxieties & phobias & fears, topped off with low self-esteem. That happens because we have not learned how to lament. Unresolved, un-mourned grief causes a boatload of problems! Many people are stuck in all kinds of bad behavior because they never grieved – over an alcoholic dad or an unloving mother, prejudice or mistreatment or bigotry.
Rather than actually feeling it, actually grieving over it, actually going through the season of mourning, it’s so easy to just put our heads down & ignore it: “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!”
Doctors say a lot of illnesses come from unresolved grief, unresolved regrets & unresolved resentment. That pain in the back or that pain in the rear or my aching neck, a lot of it is caused because we take emotions inside of us that God never intended for us to keep bottled up. He wants us to let them out. Jesus says in Matthew 5:
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (v. 4) Who gets comforted? Those who have the courage to mourn. What’s Jesus saying? Cover-ups don’t get comforted. If I cover up the pain, if I ignore the pain, if I deny the pain, or pretend it does not exist, if I’m too afraid of my emotions, then I cannot receive comfort.
David prays in Psalm 23:4, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death . . .” Note the phrase, “Walk through.” We walk through it. Don’t go around it, tunnel underneath, or try & take a big jump over it. Walk through it. How? C – A – R – E.
C – Complain. It’s ok not to be ok! In chapter 3 Job is so low he feels death is better than life. He complains, “Why should I have to go on living if living involves so much pain!”
A – Appeal. The 2nd thing I do is appeal to God’s nature. I appeal to God’s character & who He is. His attributes, the character, the nature of God.
R – I complain, I appeal, then I Remind. I remind God of His promises. I remind God of
His truth. I remind God of what He said. I remind God of His reputation.
E – I Express trust in God’s wisdom & the things I do not understand.
No matter who it is in the Bible, when they are lamenting to God, they follow this pattern. I could take you to psalms & prayers throughout Scripture. Complaining, appealing, reminding, expressing. That’s how we C – A – R – E for ourselves.
I’m not saying that we wallow in our weeping. We go through it but also look past it. We look past our sorrow to see Jesus who knows what it’s like to lament. Oh God, Jesus knows!
Our Lord complained & appealed & reminded & expressed trust in His God. Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, & am not silent. I am a worm & not a man, scorned by men & despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads:
‘He trusts in the Lord; let the Lord rescue him. Let Him deliver him, since he delights in Him.’ I am poured out like water, & all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me. Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands & my feet. They divide my garments among them & cast lots for my clothing.”
Look past your sorrow. Look straight to Jesus. My all-time favorite is Psalm 30:5, “Weeping endures for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”
As your pastor who loves you & cares for you, I encourage you to weep during the long nights of life. Refuse to “fly over” your pain, but also affirm that joy will come in the morning; because of the 1st Easter morning when our Lord’s own lament was turned into a song of everlasting deliverance. First the cross – then the glory! Amen.
Glory be to Jesus, Who in bitter pains poured for me the lifeblood from His sacred veins! Abel’s blood for vengeance pleaded to the skies; but the blood of Jesus for our pardon cries. Lift we, then, our voices, swell the mighty flood; louder still & louder praise the precious blood! Amen. LSB 433:1, 4, 6.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet