Lament [Guest post by Nicole Conner]

At CityLife we are reading through the Old Testament and currently preaching through the prophets at our weekend church gatherings. I'm not sure what preaching team meeting I missed where the straws were pulled on who preaches what, but somehow Lamentations fell at my feet. After a year of mourning the death of my beautiful mother, dealing with the ordeal of all of our children and two of their friends being in a horrific car accident, dark humour kicks in – of course: Lamentations!

Background: Scholars place Lamentations somewhere around 587 BC. Some attribute the authorship to Jeremiah, but that cannot be proven, so we will simply refer to the author as the Poet. Lamentations is exactly that – a Hebraic poem of lament. The poet is watching as everything dear to him is being destroyed by the Babylonian army. He is recording horror that most of us will not see in our lifetime: cannibalism, rape, and murder. His theological reflections are subtle and he does not resort to cheap grace or easy answers (or any famous Pentecostal clichés), but faces the possibility that Yahweh may have finally rejected His people.

There is no resolution in sight. There is no Happy Ending.

We hate that. All the fairy tales that we love end with the famous words, “… and they all lived happily ever after”. We want that happy ending – that moment when the hero rides in and everything will be alright. In fact, when we don’t have a happy ending we simply re-write it. Like Baz Luhrman has just done for the movie Australia about to be released in our cinemas. A test audience in US gave it the thumbs down because of the tragic ending. What does a director do???? You rewrite it! [Click here to read the full story]

In real life we cannot rewrite our ending. We cannot fool-proof our journey. That means that suffering, grief, death, and heartache are a common occurrence on our planet. The book of Lamentations deals with these issues. Maybe that is why the book, along with Job, is avoided in so many “victorious” churches. I think a virus in some Pentecostal churches that needs to be addressed is this very issue – a shallow theology that does not allow for pain, suffering, and “no happy ending”. What becomes even more insidious is that people who suffer in these churches are condemned for their “lack of faith”. How totally bizarre when we read the Bible in its entirety and recognise that pain and suffering interweaves with not just the people of God, but the very Godhead.

Lamentations is a poem about suffering. The poet feels great sorrow – the sorrow of loss, of regret, of the possibility of no happy ending. Yet the very fact that the poet laments to God shows that he believes God is, that God hears, and, as recorded in chapter 3, that God’s mercies, despite the dire circumstances, are new every morning. The thin, unbreakable thread that runs through this tragic poem is one of hope. Maybe our desire for a happy ending is more spiritual than we realise.

Nicole Conner

10 thoughts on “Lamentations – Where is my Happy Ending? (Pt.1)

  1. Excellent message Nicole. It’s been a really tough year for you and my heart goes out to you. I’m well aquainted with sufferings myself and would not have made it without my faith in Jesus, nor the wonderful people God placed in my life. Our happy ending is only found in the hope we have in Jesus of spending eternity with Him, where perfect love lives. Hope in Jesus never disappoints and His love never fails, regardless of what we go through. This world is our training ground. Our Creator placed us on this earth for a short time (as a loving parent who sends their children away to camp) to experience things and learn how to love (God and others)and develope faith to fully trust Him in all things before going to our real home. What a comforting joyful thought to know that we shall see our loved ones and be together again. Sending you big hugs.

  2. Wow Nicole! Please don’t take this the wrong way but I’m not used to reading or hearing anything that theologically balanced from a megachurch pastor’s wife. I am a megachurch refugee who fled for many of the reasons you described. A shallow (and Christless) theology and a suffocating ‘we’ve got it all together’ syndrome that produces earthbound demanding religious consumers, not heavenbound blood-washed saints.
    I know it’s not fair to paint all megachurches with the same brush but many fit the same cultural stereotype. I am truly delighted to see you as an exception to this norm and down to earth.
    Our theology of success needs to be balanced by a theology of suffering. Misery is a selfish luxury with a strong sense of entitlement but grief is a necessity. It is healthy for the soul to be allowed to grieve, so go the Lamentations! What a relief for the people of God to grieve freely without any guilt.
    When I first started reading the Bible as a young Christian, one the biggest drawcards for me was its striking realism. It’s a warts-and-all book containing unsanitised, raw and hardcore material truly reflective of life in a fallen planet where grief and sorrow is part and parcel of.
    Bless you Nicole!

  3. Hi John and Marija,
    thank you for your encouragement.
    I am devastated by the amount of people who once followed Christ but adhered to a gospel, that was not a gospel at all – It was more of a religious pyramid scheme. When God did not come through like they had been taught, and had confessed, when the genie in the bottle did not appear at their positive confessions, their faith fell in a heap.
    The picture they had painted to them of Jesus was more like John Wayne – not the Jesus of the Gospels, not the Jesus of Gethsemane, not the Jesus of Calvary – not the Jesus who was familiar with suffering!
    Peter couldn’t cope with the thought of a suffering Messiah – so he rebuked Him.
    I think we still can’t cope with the thought of suffering – as a community or individuals – so we rebuke those who face it.
    I am ranting…….. sorry…… thanks 🙂

  4. I attend the kind of church which you described. Until I saw it for myself, I would not have believed it. I don’t think it is wrong for people to believe God for healing and prosperity, but there really does not seem to be a safety net for broken people, or should I say, real people.
    I heard you and Pastor Mark speak at a conference in Portland last year. You added great grace to my life.
    Two weeks ago we laid off every employee and had to put our building up for sale because of the economic downturn. We were extremely thankful not to go through foreclosure.
    There was no mercy or compassion for us at church although my husband had spent an entire day in tears. Our business is our ministry, and we have worked to serve our employees, and be a good testimony in our community.
    Evidently we are now viewed as failures in their eyes. I think that God looks at things quite differently, and He is nearer than when we first believed…

  5. Thank God for our CityLife church which teaches balanced teaching. On one hand, yes, God wants to bless us etc, but on the other hand, we need to go through fiery trials that we may grow into maturity in Christ.
    Jesus himself said, I think in John chapter 16: I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

  6. Good post.
    Certainly, there are principles and promises that lead to prosperity in the Bible. Some smart person once observed that “Heresy is a Truth taken to an extreme”.
    That is ‘Prosperity Gospel’ in a nutshell. God never promised his followers success in terms of this life. To truly Prosper would be to remain faithful in times of suffering.
    John Piper sums it up well here:
    Also – good comment John from Brisbane.

  7. I think half the problem lies with our understanding of success and prosperity. To define it by material accumulation or even health alone throws doubt on God’s love and favour for 82% of the world that does not live like we do. Our brothers and sisters that right now are facing persecution, illness, famine – the ones who remain faithful when all they hold dear is taken…
    Sinta, praying for peace and a sense of God’s love and favour in this dark time.

  8. Mrs Sinta. I share your pain because when I was young my dad went through a failed retail business and we ended up living on handouts from the neighbours for a while. We lost the little that we had. Worst of all was the ‘stigma’ of a failed business.
    Ironically, now I work in banking and work very closely with the area that issues repossessions and files for bankruptcy orders. Professionally, I have dealt with many people who are at ‘death row’ in their business and employees who lost their job and can’t pay their loans and credit cards. I can understand your plight.
    I despise shallow clichés dished out thoughtlessly to people in your situation but THERE IS COMFORT in God’s Word. I think the following passage fits so please consider it. The frequently quoted “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” is often quoted out of context. The proper context of this statement (Philippians 4:10-14) is really referring to the reduction in Paul’s income and substance. Paul is saying that he learned to live in surplus AND in deficit. May you be greatly encouraged by these words.
    Also, a personal friend of mine (a Christian) who went through two failed businesses and almost lost everything, has just written a book that he can mail free of charge if need be, entitled ‘Life After Liquidation – ReBound from business collapse’. As a ‘been there done that’ type of guy he knows that recovery from business collapse is multifaceted. It involves substantive, material, legal, financial, emotional and relational issues (business and personal relationships). All those need to be dealt with one at a time. He only wrote the book to help people like you. Even though you didn’t go as far as foreclosure you are dealing with very similar issues. If you are interested you can visit his website and find out more information.
    I’m not sure from your post if you live in Australia or abroad, but in any case we serve the same “ Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God”

  9. Hi John and Mrs Sinta,
    Yes, it is tough when things go wrong and my heart goes out to you. Been through all of the above situations and I understand suffering, but God has brought me through it all. During those difficult times He graciously gave me peace that was beyond understanding, as I trusted Him. The key word is trust God in all things. He is faithful and just. Praying for you Mrs. Sinta in agreement with Nicole. All will work out just fine.
    Peace reigns where our Lord reigns.
    — Julian of Norwich
    If God be our God, He will give us peace in troubled times. When there is a storm without, He will make peace within. The world can create trouble in peace, but God can create peace even in trouble.
    — Thomas Watson

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