Grief After the Joy of Former Days
Lamentations 1:1 (ESV) – How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow has she become, she who was great among the nations! She who was a princess among the provinces has become a slave.
Most people who have been alive long enough to observe things and go through experiences understand that life can be difficult. Even little children know this. Some children have gone through cancer or the loss of a parent. Teenagers know too with people saying mean things about their appearance or their parents divorcing. Pain and afflictions are a part of life. But acknowledging they are a part of life isn’t the only challenge. The challenge is contrasting our times of grief and sorrow with times of joy and abundance we’ve had before. That is what makes the sorrow of present afflictions so difficult.
Our passage today is the opening verse of the book of Lamentations. This entire book is a lament. A lament is a passionate expression of grief and sorrow. Many of the psalms are laments. They are cries to God in the midst of pain and difficulty. They are expressions of longing for better days. We read in the opening verse of Lamentations, an entire book of sorrow, “How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow has she become, she who was great among the nations! She who was a princess among the provinces has become a slave.”
Notice how the contrasts between present sorrows and former glory emerge. Once full of people – now sitting alone. Once great among the nations – now a widow. Once a princess of the cities – now a slave. The next verse even goes on to say, “She has none to comfort her.” It is a terrible time in Judah. Trouble has come. The day of affliction has arrived, and it is only amplified as they remember how things used to be.
All of us can do this. We can remember days of laughter and ease. But when afflictions come, those days feel far from us. When I think about missing my son, Kaleb, the grief of his absence is amplified by the former days of joy and laughter with him. The person whose marriage is at rock bottom can remember days when things were great. These days of prospering only make the day of affliction heavier on our souls.
What is our hope in these dark and challenging days? We look to God to be our help and sustainer. The book of Lamentations, and almost every psalm of lament, incorporates promises of hope.
Lament is not fatalism or despair. It is grief and sorrow mingled with hope in the God whose steadfast love never ceases and gives new mercies every day (Lamentations 3:21-23).
Look to Him today, all who are weary. Lament for what is lost, but hope in the God of mercy.
Reflection & Journal:
- Why is lament something we don’t discuss much in churches today?
- What appeal does lament have to you as you consider its usefulness and importance?
- How do we keep lament from turning into despair?
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