Encouragement From The Word

April Showers: Thinking About Lament

“April showers bring May flowers.”  That’s not in the Bible, but it could be, except that it doesn’t apply to folks in the southern hemisphere.  (So if you’re reading this from the southern hemisphere, add six months and read it later!)

It’s an idiom that we northerners use to try to add a little hope to what can often be a dreary month.  We understand that we need the rain in order to bring about the verdancy that comes with late spring, just as we need the sunshine.  I suppose some might appreciate a compromise where it rained only at night (when it doesn’t much matter) and the sun shone through the day, but weather systems are not always that cooperative.

If we’re honest, though, we are a spoiled people:  we want what we want when we want it.  And when we don’t get what we want when we want it, we sometimes tend to think that life isn’t fair.

But I don’t remember reading anywhere that life is supposed to be fair.

This is underlined for us when we experience inconvenience, yes, but even more so when we experience tragedy.

Perhaps a loved one dies unexpectedly, or a pink slip arrives, or sickness befalls us.

Some – even some followers of Jesus – would say that we need to cheer up, and “just praise the Lord.”

While it’s good to praise the Lord, and to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5.18), we should not prevent ourselves from the practice of lament.

To lament means to feel sad, and sometimes, even mad.  And in the Bible, we see examples of both – and they are directed at God.

It’s common for Christians to think there’s something wrong with expressing anything but joy to the Lord, but Scripture demonstrates that it’s not wrong to lament before God, too.

There are some very raw laments; Psalm 137 comes to mind.  And there are others that simply express before God exactly what the writer (usually on behalf of God’s people) is feeling.  Psalm 130 is a gentle one.  Psalm 6 is more blatant.

Take some time to look up “Psalms of lament” and ponder what the Bible tells you in terms of the freedom you have to share your “rainy days” with the Lord.  Listen for how God responds as you offer these passages to him.  

And give thanks that God can handle anything you say.

You know what I long for, Lord;
    you hear my every sigh.
 My heart beats wildly, my strength fails,
    and I am going blind” (Psalm 38.9-10, NLT)

Encouragement From The Word

Waiting

I’m glad I have an unlimited internet subscription at home.  My wife is spending a lot of 1777331_630x354time online these days.

It’s nothing to worry about – I hope!  You see, there is this pregnant giraffe in a park in the United States that’s been, apparently, “ready” to give birth for weeks now.  And there’s a “giraffe cam” that is positioned in her stall 24/7, allowing all interested parties to watch the impending birth.

I’ve been hearing for quite a while now that this giraffe’s special delivery is imminent.  Yet the waiting continues.

Perhaps the anticipation of the birth will make it all the more exciting, all the more worthwhile – I don’t know.  But I guess I’ll find out one of these days.

Now this would be the perfect illustration for the season of Advent, wouldn’t it?  A season of waiting for an important birth?  Perfect!

But it’s not Advent; it’s Lent.

However, Lent is also a season of waiting, a season of preparation – not for a birth, but for what will bring about new birth; not for the tears of a baby, but for tears of agony; not for the cry of a newborn, but for the cry of “It is finished!”

And it is a season of waiting for the culmination of all this in the echoes of an empty tomb.

This weekend marks Palm Sunday, the time when Jesus rode a humble donkey from the humble towns of the Mount of Olives, through the Kidron Valley and into Jerusalem, where he was lauded as a victorious king.

The week that follows would demonstrate that Jesus was, indeed, a victorious King – but not in the way people expected.  He would be nailed to a cross like a vile criminal, buried in a borrowed tomb, and on the third day, exit that tomb having paid the price for sin, and defeating death with life.

Lent can seem a long season of waiting, but as with all God-appointed seasons of anticipation, it’s worth the wait.  Take it all in.  Whatever worship gatherings are offered to you, go and worship!  Stand at the foot of the cross.  Poke your head in the empty tomb.  Revel in the fruit of your waiting.

We can be certain of the timing and the outcome of this waiting.  Meanwhile, the “giraffe cam” is still on live feed at my house.

I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness
    while I am here in the land of the living.

Wait patiently for the Lord.
    Be brave and courageous.
    Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.  (Psalm 27.13-14, NLT)

Encouragement From the Word will return on April 21.  A blessed Easter to all!