WEEK 1: Tell It Like It Is
When did you last read Lamentations?
What did you gain from it?
Does the book of Lamentations have anything to offer the 21st century Christian?
Lamentations provides us with eyewitness accounts and personal testimonies of survivors struggling to endure and make sense of military invasion, occupation, siege, massacre, famine and violent persecution. While Lamentations presents us with a portrait of Jerusalem in the wake of its fall to Babylonian forces in 586 BC, the scene of utter devastation, like the cry of utter despair, is one that would be familiar to multitudes of contemporary Christians.
When you read in Lamentations of the devastation of the city, think of Aleppo (Syria). Think of demolished churches in Vietnam, China, Kosovo, Iraq, Egypt and Northern Nigeria. Think of Christian colonies and villages razed to the ground in anti-Christian pogroms in Pakistan, Egypt and India.
When you read in Lamentations of terror, pursuit and famine, think of the Church in North Korea that lives not only with perpetual hunger, but with the threat of incarceration and execution as well. Think of Christians left destitute after being expelled from their villages in Laos; ethnically cleansed off their lands in Myanmar or displaced by rebels in the Central Africa Republic.
When you read of tears and loss and sickening grief, think of the Church in Somalia, where news rarely consists of anything but martyrdom. Think of Christians in Syria and Iraq where members of the oldest Christian communities in the world faced the end of life as they had known it.
When you read of the killing of priests and prophets, and of the humiliation, torture and execution of leaders, think of the Church in Iran and Eritrea where leading Christians are routinely incarcerated.
Rather than hide or deny it, Lamentations confronts the raging inner conflict and desperate spiritual struggle of the sufferer who cries, “Why, Lord?” or “How long, O Lord?” or who pleads, “Don’t ignore me, Lord” or “Don’t forget me, Lord” while clinging to faith by their fingernails.
Lamentations confronts the dilemma of what to do when we are so confused, hurt and angry with God that we feel we are no longer on speaking terms with Him.
In the face of escalating violent persecution, sectarian war, suffering and hardship, Lamentations forces us to examine ourselves: are we mere on-lookers and passers-by or are we those who will extend themselves for the Lord’s beloved: step closer and listen, see the pain, feel the pain, earn a hearing and be the comforter, advocate and spiritual support God expects us to be?
For those who are devastated and for whom no comforter is in sight, Lamentations says, “Pray! Talk to your faithful God, even if all you can do is lament and complain – that’s ok, just tell it like it is. Don’t let confusion or anger stop you. Don’t tell tears hold you back and don’t hold back your tears – pour out your heart like water before the Lord (Lam 2:19). Remember who He is: He is Yahweh, your faithful sovereign God (Isaiah 40:1 and 27-31). Remember who you are: you are the beloved of His soul, redeemed at great price. Cling to His promises – and pray, just pray – and let the healing begin.”
Elizabeth Kendal is a dedicated international religious liberty analyst and advocate. Elizabeth maintains two blogs: Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) to facilitate strategic mission, aid, advocacy and prayer; and Religious Liberty Monitoring (providing additional news and analysis).