(This reflection is drawn from Jeremiah 2-:7-13)
When Jeremiah was called to speak to the devastated people of Israel, he had “something like a burning fire shut up in [his] bones.” He had a prophecy too explosive to tamp down and a God who prevailed alongside him against his fear. But when his warnings of judgement landed him in chains, Jeremiah’s faith was tested and he responded with lament. Jeremiah even speaks of God overpowering him, as if his opponent is the Lord! Once Jeremiah expresses his grief and anger over what has happened to his country, he is freed from its grip upon his soul and is able to remember that God is warrior at his side who will not allow the enemy to prevail!
I believe the Church in America has lost the ability to lament. Property gospel vendors quip, “count it all joy,” as if our troubles are mere illusions. Just “name it and claim it” and the blessings will roll in as if lament is an evidence of failure and sinful shame. Scripture contains many voices of people crying out to God in their despair and anger with God; and there is much to lament in our world. Theological factions wage “culture wars” against one another defying God’s call for unity. I join Jeremiah as he painfully writes, “I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.”
I, too, am weary of gun violence in our schools, our houses of worship, our night clubs, our concerts, in our streets and homes. I want to cry out, “Why, O God, is it deemed acceptable for people to own fully automatic assault rifles?” I am saddened by the “lock-down drills” my children have to practice over and over. I want to angrily denounce our political leaders who allow very little restrictions around gun ownership or universal background checks. I am weary of the country we are becoming: a land where violence toward our children is an acceptable cost of protecting a “right.” How did we get here? How can we enact common sense gun laws that the majority of Americans and gun owners already agree with?
In the life of faith, we are given permission to lament, crying out at injustice, to scream “Why God!” God is big enough for our questions and our laments. God knows of our pressing need to get it out and yet many of us are afraid. We fear that we have somehow failed in being faithful. But we have not. We are being honest. And God wants an open and honest relationship with you more than anything! It is in this act of honest surrendering to God that we discover new hopes, God’s enduring presence, heartfelt praise and meaningful prayer. Did you know that there are over 40 Psalms crying out to God and all but one turn to hope (Psalm 88). God turns our sorrow into redemptive possibilities!
In the midst of so much struggle and sadness in the world, the Church has an opportunity to speak biblically and faithfully without ignoring reality, and we must start within. I must start within. If we fail (if I fail) to do this, the world will not see the hope that the gospel can bring to such a time as this. Indeed, this “time” is dark. Yet, despite the darkness of gun violence in our nation, we can and we must raise our prophetic voices and our actions to bring about reforms to our gun laws now. Is it possible? Indeed, it is: “‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’” (Lamentations 3:24)
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I'm a follower of Christ, husband, father, friend, pastor, story teller, asker of questions, inspired by biblical narratives, social justice advocate, sports enthusiast, drinker of over priced coffee and general seeker of God's redemptive possibilities. Yeah, that about covers it. (If you discover something else, let me know!)