Lamenting on Thanksgiving?

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As I write this, the clock reads 12:00am and indicates that it is a new day: Thanksgiving Day, to be exact. Yet on my mind is the subject of lamenting.

Lamenting has been on my mind since I heard a chapel message given by a professor of mine on the biblical view of lamenting (http://www.denverseminary.edu/worship/media, 9/26/05). He spoke eloquently on the appropriateness of and even the need for lamentation at certain times in life. What was especially significant to me was that he gave us the opportunity at the end of his message to publicly lament. I lamented the loss of my father, something rarely even speak about with my friends.

Now I find myself preparing a sermon on Psalm 22 for a homiletics class. Psalm 22 begins with the line Jesus quoted as he hung on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Many see this psalm and quickly note how it has been seen as an emotional prediction of Jesus’ death on the cross (prediction because it was written before Jesus came to this earth). The Holy Spirit may well have intended this when he inspired David as he wrote this song. But we must not overlook that the psalm, in its historical context, was a lamentation given by David.

What place do we give lamenting in the Church? Do we allow for expressions of sadness, depression, hopelessness, and despair? Have we lost the ability of grieve? To grieve does not mean to give up. To admit feelings of hopelessness does not mean that there is no hope. Lament and hope are not exclusive. Indeed, even David found reason to hope in Psalm 22. In vv. 19-21 he makes his plea to his God. He then finds hope in God’s saving power. It is not a false hope, empty words to placate his fear. No, David’s hope is borne out of suffering, and though all around has fallen, he clings to that hope.

In working with youth, I must remember to give them permission and space to lament. I must remind them that our God is a God who cares. We live in a fallen, broken world, and there is much that breaks God’s heart, and it should break our hearts as well. God will hear our complaints, he will hear our pleas, and he will give us reason to hope. For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth. And this is certainly something to be thankful for.

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