Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them. Psalm 126:5-6
We’ve been talking about lamenting in general and now from a utilitarian vantage point. What good does crying about the world and its problems do? Last time we talked about how we can weep and have faith at the same time.
Now let’s look at how lamenting can actually bring us closer to God.
That’s what we’re seeking, after all, to be closer. How can that happen at the same time that we’re weeping? This objection is easier to answer, though not very pleasant in the doing. When we weep over the sins, sorrows, and sufferings of the world (along with some of our own, of course), we weep in the company of “the Man acquainted with grief.” If we want to be better acquainted with him we have to be acquainted with what he’s acquainted with.
You want to be close to God? Intimacy with him is more than ascribing to right ideas about him, it includes feeling what he feels. Being intimate with other humans goes way beyond just knowing facts about them. It’s being in tune with their emotions, what concerns them, what makes them laugh and what makes them weep – and then laughing and weeping with them. Give some thought to these words of A.W. Tozer:
God is unable to shake off His burden for the human race. Although self-imposed, this burden is no less a burden. … Man’s treachery has deeply wounded Him, but He is caught in the sweet and painful meshes of His own love. He is impaled, so to speak, on the point of His own great love for mankind. … God does not sleep, but I am sure that if He slept, He could not sleep because He is haunted by the treachery of man and caught in the web of His love for man and His pride in man.
This begs the question, “Why would an all-knowing God need to weep over things he knew were coming?” That God is omniscient doesn’t mean he doesn’t ache over the sins, sicknesses, and sufferings of the people he loves. Jesus knew he was just about to raise his friend Lazarus, still he wept at the tomb’s entrance. Even though God sees an eventually good outcome, in the interim he grieves our losses – personal and global.
Though he’s in control, he doesn’t control everything in his universe. He’s not willing that any should perish, yet millions do. So, he weeps! David may not have seen the righteous begging bread but God has, and he weeps over it. Though the future of his universal kingdom is in the bag, God doesn’t always get his way in the meantime. Sometimes he has to wait till the meantime has ended and his suffering children receive the rest of his goodness. It’s in that meantime that he weeps and we are advised to join him.
A piece of Frederick Faber’s hymn, “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy,” speaks to this:
There is no place where earth’s sorrows
Are more felt than up in Heaven;
There is no place where earth’s failings
Have such kindly judgment given.
When we weep with those who weep it not only brings us closer to other weepers, it presses into the heart of the Weeper of Heaven. Among other things, achieving intimacy with God involves feeling his sadness over the suffering, sin, and sickness of his world. Sadness and grief are part of God’s personality, and if we aspire to be near him we have to learn to find him and embrace him in the “fellowship of his sufferings.” I can honestly says that some of my most sublime moments in God’s holy presence are when I’ve felt even a tiny and temporary twinge of his throbbing heart for the world.
Yes, lamenting can actually bring us closer to God!
Next time we’ll talk about how lamenting can actually help our witness to the world… Until then, got anything to add, ask, or refute?
2 Replies to “How does all this lamenting bring us any closer to God?”
Thank you, Pastor Barney. I am grateful and feel extremely blessed, but I always carry a sadness with me. I’ve always felt it was a weakness that I couldn’t shake, but it seemed the only appropriate response to the sin of this world. This series is helping me make peace with the sadness. Thank you for your ministry. I’m going to share this with my officemate!
You’re welcome, Sakura. I wonder if our reluctance toward sadness over the world is partially due to our idea that sad and spiritual are mutually exclusive. Sometimes sadness is the most appropriate posture to take in face of a mashed up world.