O Lord remember what has come upon us
Look down on our nation
The crown has fallen from atop our head
Woe, for we have sinned
Why forget us Lord forever
Why forsake us so long
Turn us to you, and we shall be restored
And renewed as of old
Or have you rejected us?
– from the song “Death in the City” by John Fischer
The last four lines of this song are taken from the last three verses of Lamentations in the Bible. The book is a collection of acrostic poems that express the sorrow and the suffering of the nation of Israel after Jerusalem was destroyed and the people were carried off into exile by the Babylonians. It is a prophetic lesson in suffering and how to manage it that was spelled out in yesterday’s Catch from Lamentations 3. Here it is again in case you missed it.
What to do about suffering:
- Agree with God and everyone else that [suffering] sucks.
- Cry out to God.
- Remind yourself of God’s faithfulness and lovingkindness regardless of what you are going through.
- Wait patiently for the Lord to save.
Still, there are two more chapters in the book, and these primarily go back to reiterating steps #1&2. I’ve referred already to the sacred dignity in human suffering. It’s hard to imagine dignity in suffering, but if you attribute value to the individual as God does, suffering then takes on greater significance. Christ suffered. He was called the suffering servant — a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief — and He said we would share in His sufferings. So suffering, however it comes, should be no surprise to us. The point for us is not to get out of suffering, but to get through it.
Why do you always forget us? Why do you forsake us so long? Restore us to yourself, Lord, that we may return; renew our days as of old unless you have utterly rejected us and are angry with us beyond measure. Lamentations 5:20-22
The conclusion of Lamentations is indeed sobering. The last few lines are painfully honest and show that scripture does not always tie everything up with a bow. This book of Lamentations ends hanging over a precipice. There is no resolve. It ends with a question without an answer. The writer cries out for restoration. He even realizes they will need God’s help to repent: Turn us back to You, he cries. Renew our days as of old, unless … “unless You have utterly rejected us.” Have we pushed You too far? Have we used up all Your patience? Are You angry with us beyond measure?
As far as the nation of Israel is concerned, history tells us the answer is no. But for those of us who are Americans, I wonder what the answer will be.