Call for the wailing women to come;
send for the most skillful of them…
Teach your daughters how to wail;
teach one another a lament. Jeremiah 9
Rather than beleaguer anyone with a long string of talks on the theme of lamenting I decided to inject them here and there in small doses in order to give you a break from what might at first glance seem like a downer of a theme. Lamenting is not exactly the hot topic of the day. Book titles like Learning the Art of Lament or Weeping Worshippers wouldn’t top the charts at Amazon. If you want to get a crowd, advertise a seminar on “Successful Living” or “Ten Keys to Joy.” “How to Mourn Losses” or “Grieving God’s Way” wouldn’t garner enough sign ups to pay for the hall!
Jeremiah was not-so-fondly viewed as the nation’s buzz kill for his insistence on seeing things as they were, as opposed to as they wished them to be. He raged and wept while they pretended everything was going to be just fine.
Though no one has actually said it outright, the looks I’ve noticed on some faces when I’ve talked up this topic with friends seem to be asking the question, “What good does it do to weep about the world’s problems? It’s like crying over spilt milk, isn’t it? Shouldn’t we be talking about what we can do to improve this place?” Good point.
Of course, spilt milk and spilt blood are not the same. One’s an inconvenience and the other a tragedy. Hate, injustice, and greed are rampant. People are abducted, trafficked, abused, murdered, and cheated out of their civil rights in every country and culture. How can we not feel something about these things? How can we not weep and the sin, sickness, and suffering of the world?
Empathy is the opposite of apathy. Apathy doesn’t mean that we don’t care. It means that we don’t feel (a = negative; pathos = feeling). George Bernard Shaw said, “The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them.” Empathy, on the other hand, is the ability to share someone else’s feelings, and weep with those who weep.
Still, from a utilitarian vantage point. What good does crying about it do? More specifically…
- How can we weep and have faith at the same time?
- How does all this lamenting bring us any closer to God?
- How can a bunch of crying Christians do the world any good?
How can we weep and have faith at the same time?
Is there such a thing as a “weeping faith”? I mean, if you have faith, why would you cry about it? I guess we should ask Jesus if he had faith when he wept over Lazarus’ tomb or when he cried about his beloved Jerusalem (John 11:35; Luke 19:41). If faith and lament were mutually exclusive I doubt he would’ve instructed some people to “weep for [themselves] and their children” (Luke 23:28). Jeremiah had more faith than anyone I know and he held it simultaneously along with seas of tears – David too, and let’s not forget Paul.
Contrary to populist preacher talk, faith is not the fist-pumping, high-fiving, chest-thumping, brow-sweating event that it’s cranked up to be. “Though he slay me,” cried Job, “yet will I trust him!” Now that’s faith! It’s not the denial of pain or the positive confession of something we wish for. Faith is where we acknowledge the bad, sometimes grieve it, and trust that God has something better in mind, even if what he has in mind is to improve us rather than improving our circumstances. Faith is bringing our tears to God where he bottles them up for safe-keeping until the day where tears will be no more. We know that after all-night weeping vigils “joy comes in the morning.” Problem is, we don’t know when morning will actually come. God’s morning is less predictable than ours. So we weep until the sun rises, even if it rises much much later than we expected.
Yes, we can weep and have faith – real faith – at the same time!