“Lions, tigers, and bears, oh my!”
How was your week? Did you have a time when you were like Dorothy in the dark forest of Oz and felt like you were surrounded by danger?
My sister, Beth, lives in Alabama, and she texted me that they were having severe weather and tornadoes were reported to the north and south of her.
As the caring but smart-aleck older brother that I am, I texted back to her that if she gets caught up in the swirling winds of a tornado and lands back down, and says, “I don’t think I’m in Alabama any longer,” all that she needs to do is find a yellow brick road, follow it, and she will be okay.
I got on my weather app, and I saw that it looked like the weather where she lived had strong storms, but there were no tornadoes.
And I texted back again, “Keep me updated.”
I hope you had a good week, and my week was okay-nothing but the usual stuff happened.
We had a little bit of stormy weather this week here on the northside. From what I know of, except for some fallen tree limbs, all seems to be okay, and to say, my brown lawn needed the rain.
We have our days that go well, and we might even find that each of the seven days of a week go the way that we want them to.
Imagine that-a whole week that went well, but don’t get use to it, for it’s as true as we can have a stretch that is dry, and we can have days of nothing but rain, we will get some hard days that come our way.
And although we do have good days and even might even have a whole week full of them, all we have to do is to take one look at the news and see that danger is all around us, even when things are going well for us.
As we step out the door, we are always inches away where bad things happen, so we see that we can’t help but be vulnerable.
It’s like going to the zoo where they have an atrium with birds flying all around you, but it’s not like you’re in the lion’s enclosure where you might get pounced on with savage claws, yet, in the atrium with the birds, you might get bombed with bird droppings.
It’s not that we are risk takers, for you will never catch me bunjee jumping or even parasailing. I’m a sit on the beach drinking a margarita type of guy, but just by the nature of things, we lead risky lives.
Yesterday, I did get an obnoxious loud alert for tornadoes on my phone. I’ve heard that if you hear the wind that sounds like a train it’s time to run to your basement if you have one, or your next bet, go sit in your bathtub.
We can only do what we can to be safe, but sometimes what we do isn’t enough, for bad things just happen.
Why am I going on and on about how bad things are always so close to us and how inevitable, as much as we don’t want bad things to happen, that we will get caught some way at some time by something bad?
Well, as you know, we have readings that go through a three-year cycle. In this cycle, we don’t read all of Scripture, but we read good portions of it that gives us a full picture of the story of our salvation.
This Sunday is the only Sunday of the cycle that we read from the book of Lamentations.
So, I thought we give some thought to the bad times that happen and do some lamenting this morning about them.
Lament is not a word I use often, if I use it at all, but after studying this passage from Lamentations, I realized that I do a lot of lamenting.
What is lamenting? It’s saying, “Oh my, on my, oh my, oh my!”
The book of Lamentations does not mention its author, but we think it’s the prophet, Jeremiah.
In Lamentations, Jeremiah is showing sorrow over the destruction of Jerusalem by its enemies.
Let’s take a few minutes and look at what was happening with the city of Jerusalem at the time that it’s was going through its hard times.
By looking at its hard times, we can use it as a perspective for the hard times that we experience.
First, we need to look at the bad news. Jerusalem is going through hard times for a reason-the sins of the people. It’s seeming that God has totally turn His back on His people, the Israelites.
In the book of Lamentations, we see the possibility that God has finally had enough of the people’s sins and has rejected them.
Jeremiah is sure to point out the reality of how severe the disaster that has fallen on the city and that also God has caused this evasion to happen as a punishment for the sins of the people.
Now, that is something to think about-how, in fact, it’s God who has caused the pain of the people. Jeremiah says that this suffering is a just punishment for the sins of the people.
After all, God is a just God, and when people do wrong, they need to meet the consequences of the wrong that they have done.
Although we do not like those consequences, we have to admit, when it comes to bad things, enough is enough. Bad choices can only add up to make for a miserable world and messed up lives, so it’s best that sin stops before it really harms us.
Something has to be done to turn around the bad direction that we choose to go in at times.
As the people of Jerusalem were in the midst of suffering for their sins, they started to remember God’s acts of mercy that He had shown them before-this was not the first time that the people met the punishment for their sins-and to point out here-not any one particular sin but sin in general.
The hard truth is that God does punish people for their sins, but there is another truth, a truth we welcome with repentant hearts.
Truly, God also forgives and restores the penitent sinner.
This verse sticks out to me from our reading for today, “..., though He cause grief, He will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love.”
This verse sticks out because of a word that pops out from it-the word “cause.”
When we think of God, we think of Him as a loving and caring God who wants to give us comfort in the hard times-as we should think.
What might not make sense is that God is the one who gives us grief in the first place.
It begs the question, “If God want us to have comfort, why not just don’t give us reasons for grief in the first place?”
Well, God meant for us not to have grief in the very first place when He placed humans in the Garden of Eden-a perfect paradise.
But, we go back to the fact that God is a just God. When those humans disobeyed God, they found the consequences of their sins.
The results of all human disobedience are pain, toil, and grief.
In our hard times, we do have to see that although we feel that we are at the end of our rope and dangling over a pit where we will perish, we are not ever at the end of things.
God always gives us more for us to keep going.
If we think about this in a human way, we want to give joy to others and not grief.
A scolding is never pleasant, but, at times, it’s necessary. Patting a person on the back with a “Way to go!” is more fun.
In the big picture of life, feeling the sorrows that come our way is necessary.
We are not to avoid grief but face it.
I read this in a devotion this week, “The only healthy way to address pain is to go through it.”
The devotion goes on to talk about how David walked through the valley of the shadow of death.
In our walking through the pain, we also remember that God gives us comfort and all that we need as we walk through all things of life.
This past week, in my wanderings on the internet, I found this book by the artist, Maira Kalman, who is also a grandmother.
It’s all about what she saw as she spent time with her granddaughter.
The time with her granddaughter inspired her to paint scenes with a theme of trying to show how all the colors of the world are each unique but also how all of them relate to each other.
As I went through this journal of art and words, I was not sure if it was just a children’s picture book because it looks like a fun book for children with it’s colors that are bursting out on the page.
But, it seemed also that adults need to see the paintings and read the reflective journal entries that are like poems about the paintings to get fresh ideas about this old world that we walk through each day.
Here is one of those paintings with its words of the thoughts at the time of the discovery:
Isn’t this so much like life with joy and sorrow in such proximity to each other?
We are thinking we are having a good day, but then, it makes a turn, and we find that something has happened that causes us grief.
The most important thing to know, as we are going through our day with all the many ups and downs of any day of any week, God is providing all that we need.
As we go through our lives, we always need to know that there is reason for joy.
Our joy is fullfilled from these things:
If we need strength, God gives it, especially today as we eat and drink the true body and blood of Christ that assures us that Christ is in us with all that he has for us.
If we need be free from the shame and guilt of sin, we receive God’s mercies that are new every morning.
If we have been hurt and need healing, God gives us an abundance of comfort.
If we just are not feeling that we can get through our day, we look at the cross and see that if Jesus got through his suffering and death on Friday and made it to new life by his resurrection on Sunday, we, too, can get through our day, for Christ gives all that he has to us.
I’m not sure that when you meet a friend for coffee what that friend will say when you ask, “Do you mind if I do some lamenting? I mean if I tell you an “Oh my” or two or three.”
If I was that friend, I would say, “Okay, go ahead, but you need to hear me do some lamenting, too.”
Although I would say let’s be sure in our lamenting that we also take time to remember that God will turn our mourning into dancing.
I’m not sure what people will think as we dance out, but who cares!
We might say at times, “Oh my,” but then we wait with hope.
And this is our hope that we have by faith-God will be sure that a time will come, and it will come soon, for God gives us so much that is new every morning that we can only say, not “Oh my,” but “What joy!”