Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Yet this I call to mind

"When the Therapeutic God Isn’t Sufficient" considers what we are taught by Lamentations
.... Sometimes Christians will try to use the Bible and pious truisms to avoid an acquaintance with grief. A pastor at my father’s funeral told my mother, “This is a celebration.” No, it’s not. My mother was a widow at the age of 47. Avoiding the grief, passing the mourning, always on a mountaintop with a smile on our face… this is psychologically unhealthy, spiritual malpractice, and not Biblical. Lamentations proves that. ....

The book of Lamentations is the fruit of finally realizing that they had totally misunderstood God. So, it is useful for us today in which many people who are loud and open about their faith, posting cute, pious thoughts about God on their Facebook pages, regular in church or watching their favorite preacher on YouTube, and yet the god they worship is a lot like the god the people of Jerusalem were counting on to save them from the Babylonians, the god whose protection we can procure with a little religion, who keeps us from being acquainted with grief. When that god fails, you’ll have lamentation. Today, we’ll be told to cheer up, look on the bright side, see the glass half full.

Sometimes you don’t need to cheer up. ....

We’re not in denial. We’re not pretending the diagnosis hasn’t been delivered, that we didn’t put our loved one in the ground, that we’re not unemployed and unsure of where the next check is coming from, that that child who seems to be throwing his or her life away isn’t doing it; we are tasting the wormwood and the gall, the bitter. But...just here after 20 verses of lamenting the catastrophe, when it’s gone from the darkest to pitch black, the only glimmer of hope in all of Lamentations:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
His mercies never come to an end;
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness!
.... Google this verse and you’ll find lots of pictures of the text imposed over a sunrise or flowers, maybe with hearts, full of cheeriness. But that gives the wrong impression. That makes it seem that these words are just another attempt to dodge walking with sorrow. It would be better to see these words superimposed on a smoldering pile of rubble where the Lord’s temple used to be, the burned out houses of the people of Jerusalem, the dead bodies of priests, the living skeletons of starving children; maybe today, see them over the tombstone of your dear mother, on your cancer diagnosis, on the divorce decree a court serves you, on the dead body of your premature daughter with blood everywhere, over that see the words, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end,” even when it feels like you are about to; “they are new every morning,” even when it feels like you might not make it to the morning. “Great is Your faithfulness!”

Saying (or singing) those words is easy at a glorious sunrise, at the birth of a child, a clean biopsy, a wedding. But that’s not how they were inspired. The prophet recounts the catastrophe; asks God to remember the wormwood and the gall he’s tasted and then, “But I call this to mind,” my confidence. My hope is not perished after all because God’s covenant loyalty, His commitment to be merciful to me, never ends. He is faithful. That is our confidence. .... (more)
May each of us rest in that confidence.

John Carpenter, "When the Therapeutic God Isn’t Sufficient," Mere Orthodoxy, May 22, 2023.

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