I’m not a fan of celebrations. Christmas, birthdays, Easter, Thanksgiving, it doesn’t matter what the holiday is, they all feel ridiculous to me and hold a layer of sadness. It could be because of an overseas childhood in a country that did not celebrate western holidays. Or maybe, with all the transitions and moves in my life, and because traditions are rare, there is no link to feelings of childhood innocence. Or it could just be me and my personality.
When it comes to celebrating the work of God, my feelings are much the same. It is hard for me to trust a good thing. I am skeptical and wonder why he has chosen to answer prayer the way I’ve asked or I wait anxiously for him to take it all back.
I remember asking God if I could marry my husband and when his answer came back as a yes, I was confused. I wasn’t used to God’s answer being a positive one and until those ‘I do’s’ were said and those papers signed I was convinced God would ruin it. Once he realized he had made a dream of mine come true, he would swoop in and make sure I knew that HE was the only one I needed.
My unfortunate life motto has been, “If you want it, God will take it.”
It is a rough way to live, I’m not gonna lie.
I like to look at Jeremiah, the prophet, as my kindred spirit or spirit animal as my husband suggests. I’m a good lamenter. I can rail at God; I have seen injustice in the world. I know what hunger is, I know loss, I’ve witnessed the death of our most innocent. I’ve held the kids who have chosen the streets over their own parents and I’ve seen the tears of women who are shamed.
What I am learning, personally, is that lament is not the end and that within the lament there is a greater purpose. You know the verse in Lamentations? The one we always quote? “His mercies are new every morning. Great is thy faithfulness.” Have you ever looked at what Jeremiah writes about before he makes that statement? I hadn’t. Not until recently, and I was very surprised.
Jeremiah spends the bulk of 3 chapters talking about how God has rejected the people of Israel, how the Israelites are cut off and have no comforter, no one to plead their cause. He even goes so far as to mention that the children of Israel are collapsing in the streets like wounded men and their mothers are using them for their own survival.
Then Jeremiah moves on to talk about his own feelings about God, and they are not pretty. He calls himself a man who has seen affliction because of God’s wrath. He states that his soul has been rejected from peace and that he has forgotten happiness as both his strength and hope in God has perished. He says God is like a bear, lying in wait and has torn him to pieces.
It’s not a happy picture of God or of the world, or of ministry for that matter.
But he doesn’t stop there. He continues on, saying that he recalls the never ceasing lovingkindness of God and it renews his hope. God’s compassions never fail, they are new every single morning. Great is his faithfulness.
I look around my world today and it’s crazy. Fear is normative and shaming is spiritualized. There are riots, murders, destruction of property with racism and disgust spewing from every color and political side. And I know that America isn’t the center of the universe which is why I also know that the issues of COVID are the least of many peoples’ worries in the world. There are children who are hungry and there are those who are sold to feed their families. War is still raging, diseases are still killing, volcanos still erupting and malevolent people will take any opportunity to do evil where they can. There is no end to corruption and wickedness.
Yet, Jeremiah didn’t seem to have a problem with the duality. He could roll his lament straight into hopeful praise of God. The world could be a place filled to the brim with horrific suffering and God could also be faithful and good and the giver of hope.
Injustice and suffering and pain will never end while we are on this earth. “The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them anytime,” Jesus said. I’m realizing that I can’t wait for the storms to subside before I celebrate the gifts of God in my life. The most important gift being the unconditional love that he continually gives me no matter my circumstances.
I am his.
So, maybe I will enjoy parties in heaven, but for now I will take my cue from Solomon. “Go then, eat your bread in happiness and drink your wine with a cheerful heart; for God has already approved your works (Ecc. 9:7).” I can take the simple and mundane things in life and view them as a way to celebrate the God that works on my behalf.
A hot bath, sunshine on my face, cozy socks, books, art, food or anything else I may enjoy. I can lament and I can celebrate, I am free to do both and within each there is a path to healing. Lament allows me to acknowledge the truth and grieve as God grieves, it places the role of salvation soundly at his feet. Celebration reminds me that the world is not doomed, that there is still good, and that God remains faithful even when I can not see it.
Do you prefer lament or celebration?
We’ll chat about the sweet joys and the frustrations that can pop up for couples serving overseas! Join us for our Facebook Live this week.