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Lamentations - God's "Gift" of Grief

Good Morning All. This morning, we are looking at the book of Lamentations, and Jeremiah's Grief for God's People, who he loves, but who are suffering the effects of their sins. Through his grief, Jeremiah learns to put all his trust in God, and not trust in the things of the world.

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Lamentations – God’s “Gift” of Grief

Good morning. Well, sort of. Hopefully, I can bring us there despite our lectionary’s focus on no one’s favorite topic, Grief. Only Charlie Brown finds Grief Good. Grief comes when we feel hopeless because of news and events beyond our control.

Grief can come at the loss or potential loss of a loved one, when we lose a job we love, or the financial rug is pulled out from beneath us, and we have no idea how we can continue. Grief points us to God.

When it comes to biblical figures who grieve, two stand out. There is Job, and there is our man today, Jeremiah. Jeremiah is nicknamed “The Weeping Prophet” because of the tears of grief he shed for God’s people.

·       First because of the people’s sin in rejecting God, despite the love he had and his preaching.

·       But mostly because of the severe punishment they and the city of Jerusalem suffered at the hands of God’s enemies, which Jeremiah watched first hand.

The Book of Lamentations, where our Old Testament lesson comes from, is a 3 chapter poem written by Jeremiah, reflecting on these themes of Grief, Sin, Consequences, and how we can only find our hope in God. To give you a taste of His grief, this is Lamentations 1:

Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow, which was brought upon me, which the Lord inflicted on the day of his fierce anger.

Ultimately, God took care of Jeremiah, BUT his job as a prophet was tough. He was called as a young kid, and found older people didn’t respect him. He was told by God to preach to the king to warn him to repent, and that got him beaten and thrown in prison, and later thrown down a well. Why? Because he prophesied Jerusalem’s destruction for their sin and rebellion if they didn’t repent.

Later, he wrote to the king a letter God told him to tell the king, one final chance to repent. The king burned God’s Word page by page in the fire. Jeremiah thought this was the rock bottom, But he was very wrong.

Lamentations tells us how much worse it got when the city fell. Jerusalem’s king watched his family murdered in front of his eyes, and then was blinded so it would be the last thing that was seen. Most of the people of the city were either killed, or taken away as slaves.  

Those left in the city had no food and became cannibals and Jeremiah can’t believe what’s happened to his people. Understand, he knew this was coming. But there are some tragedies that you just can’t prepare for. Jeremiah has been stunned by grief, unable to accept what was happening to his home.

So point #1. If the great prophet knew it was coming and couldn’t handle it, it’s ok when we need help dealing with grief - when we need help trusting in God as our portion. That’s what Lamentations is about. We often try to prepare for certain things, to handle it on our own. But knowing it and going through it are two different things.

The hardest thing about grief is that you bring it around with you everywhere you go. Every single corner of Jerusalem reminded Jeremiah of what God’s people have lost for their disobedience.

It didn’t matter where he tried to go, he couldn’t escape it. If you’ve ever had a serious physical injury, and no matter how you twist and turn your body, you are reminded about the injury.

Five times in chapter 1, Jeremiah says that there is no comforter for the people. Everywhere he goes, he finds no rest from the disaster. God has removed all the resting places in Jeremiah’s life. He’s given the prophet no place to rest,

Jeremiah says there is no one to comfort me, there is nowhere I can turn. 

What are we to learn here? Consider an exhausted bird flying over a large body of water. As it flies, it grows more and more tired, looking for a rest, and finally, it sees a small stick on the water.  The bird thinks that it can land on the stick and get a small rest. But when he lands on the stick, the stick sinks beneath his weight, and he immediately has to fly off again.

It flies along and sees a shallow part of the water with a stick sticking straight up, stuck into the ground below the water. He thinks “Now I have a place to rest.” but when he goes to perch, the stick breaks again. This happens five or six more times through his journey. Over and over, he thinks he can find a temporary rest, he thinks he can find a fleeting moment of comfort, but it fails every time. Nothing but making it to the other side of the water will bring comfort.

The Bible tells us to cast our cares upon the Lord because he cares for us. But Jeremiah is only going to do it after all the crutches break, and all the old comforts are gone. Through Lamentations, Jeremiah shares in his grief, he is going to all of the old sticks, all of the old crutches to try to bring himself comfort, but he can’t find any comfort until he abandons everything else and rests in God alone. 

In verse one, Jeremiah looks at the glory of Jerusalem for comfort, but that has been taken away. Jerusalem is empty, the people became slaves, and those left pay tribute instead of receiving it.

Next, he looks at friends, but sees that all his the friends are gone, Jeremiah mentions tears in several verses. Jeremiah says that he cried and cried but that brought him no comfort.

In order to get to chapter 3, where Jeremiah can say the Lord is his portion, he has see how weak and feeble all of the other stick he relied on really were.  In grief, we find God treating us like an infant learning to walk. When we taught Noah, we moved all the furniture away, so when he tries to reach for items like a chair etc., he can find them.

The baby is startled to find they aren’t there, reaching for crutches, and can only finds rest, … in the arms of Grandma.

This is what God has done for Jeremiah and for us with his “gift” of Grief. In order to find rest, in order to find comfort, so that we can say that “The Lord is My portion”, God removed all of the furniture, all of the things that we liked to rest on instead of Him, until we find ourselves resting in His arms, rather than the things of the world which fade so quickly.

This is because to truly rest on God, we need to see how weak the things of the world are that we surround ourselves with, and which we falsely trust. And then, we can trust in One who is Eternal, and who loves us so much more than the world could ever love us.

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