If you’ve paid close attention, the last few posts here have been related to lament. That’s mostly because I gave a seminar (earlier today) on that topic at our Cru Winter Conference in Denver.
Another reason—for the recent posts and my interest in giving the seminar—is that much of this past year was lamentable for us. Our family lost much. Of course, with loss comes unique opportunity for gain. And we have gained. But make no mistake, the losses are real. And they hurt.
As I type this, I’m sitting on the fourth floor of the Hyatt Regency in downtown Denver. Fifteenth Street is lined with headlights. Oddly dressed co-eds are pouring into the Convention Center ready to drink a cup (or two) of kindness and cheer. Most, of course, while enjoying the last hours of 2017 are wishing, hoping, longing, that 2018 will be just a bit better.
Perhaps you are, too.
Why? Christian or not, you realize this world is broken. You know, deep down, you are broken. No matter what you encountered in the past year, I’m willing to bet you have reason to mourn something. Unfortunately, turning the clock over to 2018 doesn’t remove the losses and hurts you’ve experienced.
For those of us who are Christians, we have a unique way to deal with this. We call it lament. To lament means to pour out our pain and complaint to God, asking him to make things right—because things in this world (and my life) aren’t as I’d like them to be. If you aren’t a Christian, know that God is more than sufficient to handle your complaints. In fact, it’s during the times of loss and lament that great men and women of faith are made.
So we lament, we mourn. Jesus told us as much. He said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4).
What are we to mourn? My sin—against my wife, my children, my friends, public and private, things done and undone. Sin committed against me—unjust attack or blame, slander, mocking. Affliction that comes from living in a fallen world—cancer, infertility, mental illness, car accidents, hurricanes. Sin and brokenness all around us—abuse, war, racial inequity, famine, genocide, abortion. The list goes on.
The King of the universe tells me, “Be sad!” because not all is as it should be. Even he wept. One of his names is, gloriously, “The Man of Sorrows.” Chew on that.
And how are we comforted? Not with answers. Among the great cry of complaints in the book of Psalms, the solution is never “Oh! God fixed my situation.” No, he tends to do one better: he shows up. His Presence is the fix. And the response sounds like this, “You are my portion and my cup.” “You alone are my refuge.” “You are my dwelling place.”
Blessed are you who mourn, for you shall be comforted. Not with clever solutions, but with the Presence you most need.
We are guaranteed this Presence, in the midst of all our losses, because Jesus, the one who is God’s Presence, lost the Presence of his Father on the cross. All who trust in Jesus now have God’s presence by his Holy Spirit, whom he has given to live in us. Even when I feel alone amidst loss, I’m not alone.
And, ultimately, we are promised that at the end of history, not the end of a calendar year, Jesus will return to this earth to undo all the sad things, wipe away our tears, and make all things new. On that day, we will see Jesus’ face. We will actually be with him.
In all of my family’s sorrow and losses over the past year, the resounding lesson God is pressing into my soul is this: God’s Presence is enough. If I have him, what else do I need? He often (always?) strips away everything we long for and love to get us to this point. And it hurts. But the reward is more refreshing than we could have ever imagined.
So here’s to 2018. I’m tempted to hope for something better. Instead, perhaps for the first time, I’m expecting the new year to bring losses and hurts—it’s part of the deal. At the same time, however, I’m expecting a far greater gain: the very Presence of God himself, both now and forevermore.
What about you?