So much pain exists in our culture today. The ongoing pandemic has unleashed both intense moments of suffering and death (although this is heavy and difficult, we highly recommend listening to this recent episode of This American Life called “The Reprieve” to experience the “invisible wildfire” of Covid-19 in Detroit) and the slow languish of quarantine. Even as we have raised our voices against systemic racism and injustice in our nation, daily we see new incidents of racial prejudice and hatred. And that’s on top of all the personal things we face around relationships, family, work, and trying to stay healthy and whole in the midst of everything.
This month, Anchor City is diving into what Scripture says about lament. Because we are not God, we cannot see the whole picture. We need some way to frame our understanding of suffering and pain in order to make sense of the world around us. Anchor City is blessed through the photography and storytelling of Jin Cho — from his artistic experience, Jin tells us, “Framing helps viewers focus on the subject. By doing so, it gives a stronger story.”
How we talk about our pain makes all the difference in moving us toward or away from God.
Lament is not simply a gripe session, venting our anger, or even expressing sorrow because of our difficulties. Lament includes those things but is more than just expressing our pain. The psalms, which contain a pretty even mix of praises and laments, reveal a pattern for our laments:
Acknowledging God’s faithfulness
Crying out to God for help
Giving honest voice to our sorrows and complaints
Confirming God’s faithfulness / Trusting in God
Again, it’s not about following a formula but, rather, framing our understanding of life so that we move toward God in our pain. Lament also connects us to humanity — as Dave Gibbons says, not everyone can relate to our success or victories, but everyone understands pain. And, lament reveals to us a common longing (as Koreans have named, “Han”) for a better world. James Choung, author and Vice President of Strategy & Innovation at InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, writes:
The world is messed up; that’s obvious. But what’s more interesting is the human response: how do you feel about this kind of world? No normal person thinks that suffering, violence and oppression are good things. So what does this mean? Most people ache for a better world. But our universal ache speaks of something more. Just like hunger points to food and thirst points to water, so our universal ache for a better world means that such a world either once existed or will one day exist.
James Choung, “The Big Story”
When we frame our pain and anger as lament before God, we find that, even in our deepest sorrow, a seed of hope is hidden within. For example, the lament in Psalm 90 might feel quite relevant to today — that in the ongoing drag of quarantine, where days seem to blend into one another, we might learn to number our days with wisdom as we trust in God, for whom a thousand years are like a day.
This week, we invite you to consider the following questions:
What has been one of your deepest laments during this season?
How can you frame your lament as a move toward God?
What seed of hope is hidden within?
We can all agree: This is not how things are meant to be. As we lament, may we faithfully express our pain, sorrow, and longing for a better world.
“This conviction that God calls us to confront injustice has guided our ministry in underserved communities over the last 60 years. It has driven us to also equip and empower Christians who share our vision to pursue biblical justice and reconciliation in their own communities.”
The Bail Project works to bring about equitable justice and reform in the issue of mass incarceration in America.
“The Bail Project™ National Revolving Bail Fund provides free bail assistance to low-income individuals who are legally presumed innocent, and whom a judge has deemed eligible for release before trial contingent on paying bail. We enable our clients to return home to their families and communities while awaiting their court dates. We call this model Community Release with Support.”
Please note: We won’t be taking a special offering this month for these organizations. We encourage you to learn more about them, support them on your own, and also give to Anchor City, as our church will be giving from our previously allocated funds to these organizations.
We really hope you will spend some time watching at least one of the things on this list and expanding our understanding of what our black and brown brothers and sisters are experiencing. Let’s do what we can in God’s call for us to truly love one another!
From your pastors, this is a short note to say that we love you, we’re here for you and that we are praying for you. We know that much continues on in the world and we pray that you are both remaining faithfully engaged to all that is going on but also caring for yourself by resting and having Sabbath in the One who is always watching over us.
Please let us be a resource to you whether it’s for a listening ear, to learn together, for prayer and encouragement.
Below are a couple of resources that we’d mentioned on Sunday for us to continue to engage in the hard work of love while we work towards faithfulness and justice:
There is so much fighting for our attention right now, it’s easy to want to bury our heads in the sand and just ignore it. We pray that, just as we’ve been urging you, to start somewhere, rooted in faith and grounded in love.