Watching and Waiting

In his letter to the church in Rome, Paul takes great lengths to describe what life in light of the gospel ought to look like, including specifics regarding how we are to love one another as brothers and sisters in the Lord. In Romans 12:15 he writes, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” We tend to be pretty good at the first half of that exhortation. After all, who doesn’t love a good celebration? The rejoicing comes easily, but when it comes to weeping with those who weep, Paul’s exhortation may give us pause. We know how to rejoice with one another, but if we’re honest, we are not always quite as confident in our ability to weep with one another.

Yet Scripture never shies away from acknowledging the reality of the suffering that has existed ever since shalom was shattered and sin marred the world, nor does it downplay the anguish of people who walk through suffering. As Clay said in his sermon on Sunday, we are a family of people who are watching and waiting for God to fully usher in the end of evil and suffering—and one of the most powerful things we can do for one another is simply to sit together in our watching and waiting. Graciously, the Lord has provided us with a language to help us as we watch, wait, and yes, even weep together: the language of lament.

The earnest language of lament—in its pain, anguish, and anger—has the ability to move our hearts to God. Lament is the language of a people who are fully aware of the tragedy in this world, but who desperately want to cling to the sovereignty and goodness and promises of God, even when it appears paradoxical. Lament takes a complaint and directs it to the one who has the power to change the situation. Through lament, we can give a voice to our experiences with the pain of sin and death, acknowledging the limitations of our understanding and seeking the refuge of the one who knows and controls all things. We can cry out, even as we trust. We can wrestle, even as we believe. Lament is not simply an emotional response to suffering and hardship; it is a powerful theological statement about God and his sovereignty.

In the hands of our loving Father, our cry of lament can move our hearts toward a song of hope—a song of hope that is able to contain both great sorrow over the present realities of suffering, and great joy over the sweeping promises and unchanging character of God. The prophet Jeremiah provides an insight into this movement from lament to hope when he writes: “Surely against me he (the Lord) turns his hand again and again the whole day long…But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness (Lam. 3).” Like the psalmist so often does, the prophet recalls the character and promises of God, allowing what he knows to be true to shape his heart. His trust in the love, mercy, and faithfulness of God - even if he finds himself struggling to believe in the moment - leads him to cry out to the Lord in his suffering; and it is there that he clings to the unchanging character and promises of God. The persevering faith of lament leads to hope, and hope—when it is placed in our faithful Father—gives way to joy. Perhaps this is part of what Jesus meant when he said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

We are not left alone in our lament. Next week we’ll look more closely at the call to weep with those who weep—walking together in this movement from lament to hope.
Catherine Duffin
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