Graham presents a short series of thoughts and reflections in the run up to Advent entitled Lockdown Laments. Starting Sunday 15th November Graham will share a thought each day for 2 weeks.
It’s a question on countless lips right now, expressing a whole gamut of emotions from weary frustration to exhausted desperation. It is also an ancient question and one which echoes down history from the psalms of lament. ‘My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long?’ That’s just one verse from Psalm 6 [v3].
The question is addressed to God, because after all, who else really knows? And anyway, our souls seek much more than mere information, such as a date and time when it will all end. We seek hope, comfort and meaning and instinctively we know that God alone is the source of these human necessities.
So, in taking a psalm of lament on our lips we begin a journey, starting with the harsh reality of where we are and how we feel, and immediately we have a travelling companion, the lamenting psalmist, with whom we begin to climb out of the confinements of our circumstances or state of mind, towards the larger spaces of God-possibilities.
Lockdown Laments Introduction
Lockdown Laments Day 1
At this very moment, in many nations, the cry of ‘how long?’ is about much more than the pandemic. There are millions who suffer persecution daily for their faith in Christ and their refusal to deny him. Today, a call is going out to join them in prayer, solidarity and support with the Evangelical Alliance, CSWUK, Open Doors UK and Release International.
If you want to find out more, visit Open Doors UK here:https://www.opendoorsuk.org/resources/prayer/idop/
Some years ago, I wrote the song HOW LONG? in their honour, to help us remember them and stand in solidarity with them.
Lockdown Laments Day 2
There is a loud dissonance between the way the world is and the way most people believe it could or should be. Something is clearly wrong.
The Apostle Paul opens up a cosmic perspective: ‘We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly... [Rom 8:22-23].
Lament in the Psalms is a prayer language gifted to us to express that deep dissonance, even to wrestle it into a music of hope. A hope rooted in trust that God is good and will finally wipe away every tear and make all things new.
These words were originally written as a prayer-song for a relief and development agency, you may want to use them as a prayer today.
GOD OF THE POOR (BEAUTY FOR BROKENNESS)
Lockdown Laments Day 3
As part of Creation we humans inevitably share in these cosmic pains of birth which drive us to lament and pray. As we read yesterday: ‘We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly...’ [Rom 8:22-23].
But it seems that God the Holy Spirit is ‘groaning’ too: ‘..the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.’ [Rom 8:26].
What a privilege if we find ourselves praying in this way. Such prayer will always lead to action.
GOD OF THE POOR (BEAUTY FOR BROKENNESS
Lockdown Laments Day 4
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.’
The author of Lamentations 3:22-24 had good reason to lament and groan – his whole nation had been ruthlessly devastated and the few survivors cruelly enslaved. But even as he pours out his painful lament before God, a bright ray of hope bursts through the dark clouds: ‘Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness’.
His circumstances offered no reason for hope, the entire basis of his hope hung on God’s reputation for lovingkindness; ‘because of the Lord’s great love’. He has exhausted the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ but now lifts his eyes to the ‘Who’. He chooses to stand firm in his faith: ‘I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’ His circumstances look the same, but his perspective is radically altered.
When we fix our hope on the ‘Who’, there may yet be a lot of waiting before things change, but our waiting becomes worship.
GOD OF THE POOR (BEAUTY FOR BROKENNESS
Lockdown Laments Day 5
DON'T WASTE YOUR SORROWS
UNTIL THE DAY
Lockdown Laments Day 6
WHAT USE IS SORROW?
What use is sorrow? It is deeply salutary to ponder for a moment what sublime use God, in Christ, has put it to. Isaiah looked down history and saw someone who would one day be sent by God to rescue his broken world, but in a manner dramatically contradictory to any common conception of a heroic deliverer: ‘He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.......but He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. [from Isaiah 53: 3-6 NKJV].
God, in Christ, the Man of sorrows, took up a cross and comforted the world through suffering. The Apostle Paul, who himself experienced immense trouble and sorrow, rejoiced in how God continues to put it to good use, if we trust him to; ‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.’ 2 Cor: 3-4
UNTIL THE DAY