Pastor Mark Anderson
Disaster is nothing new in the life of peoples and nations. In fact, much of history is written as a chronicle of calamities that have befallen people throughout history. National struggles and natural disasters are, in fact, a predictable norm. Now, once again, we have them on our hands. How our society will ultimately deal with these remains to be seen. If history is any teacher, there will be much recrimination, blaming and hand wringing, and, we can only hope, perhaps a bit of progress. In time, this moment will pass, only to be replaced by the next version of disruption.
The conflicts and troubles over which we have little personal control have cast a pall over the normalcy of living. These wider conflicts and troubles often distress us as much or more than our personal struggles. Under these circumstances we may be tempted to resign ourselves to fate, resist the powers in self-defeating behavior or collapse into selfishness, or despair.
Calamities and troubles often struck the people of Israel. Natural disaster, the threat of enemies, the consequences of their bad choices left them in a state of disruption, sorrow or fear. But Israel also believed that none of these things were beyond the realm of God’s care and guidance. At such times Israel gathered, often at the temple in Jerusalem, to offer national prayers of lament. Through the bitter experiences of life, whether brought on by their own faithlessness and sin or by threats from without, Israel knew that they could turn to the God of life who had never abandoned them.
The laments of Israel, which comprise the majority of the Psalms, resonate deeply with human experience. Like the ancient Israelites, the Christian does not believe we offer up our laments into the echo chamber of an empty, godless universe. Like our Lord Jesus, who protested, lamented and struggled in the face of the burden placed upon Him as He faced the cross, we turn to God both for comfort, assurance, and the strength to deal with the immediate circumstances of living.
And so I invite you to lament,
“O God of ev’ry nation,
Of ev-ry race and land,
Redeem your whole creation
With your almighty hand.
Where hate and fear divine us
And bitter threats are hurled,
In love and mercy guide us
And heal your strife-torn world.”
from the hymn, O God of Ev’ry Nation, William W. Reid, Jr