What are some of the core commitments (prerequisites) for a robust approach to lament? Isaiah 30 lays out a few in the below text…
10-11 ‘They tell my prophets, “Shut up—we don’t want any more of your reports!” Or they say, “Don’t tell us the truth; tell us nice things; tell us lies. Forget all this gloom; we’ve heard more than enough about your ‘Holy One of Israel’ and all he says.”
12 This is the reply of the Holy One of Israel:
Because you despise what I tell you and trust instead in frauds and lies and won’t repent, 13 therefore calamity will come upon you suddenly, as upon a bulging wall that bursts and falls; in one moment it comes crashing down. 14 God will smash you like a broken dish; he will not act sparingly. Not a piece will be left large enough to use for carrying coals from the hearth, or a little water from the well. 15 For the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, says, “Only in returning to me and waiting for me will you be saved; in quietness and confidence is your strength; but you’ll have none of this.”
16 “No,” you say. “We will get our help from Egypt; they will give us swift horses for riding to battle.” But the only swiftness you are going to see is the swiftness of your enemies chasing you! 17 One of them will chase a thousand of you! Five of them will scatter you until not two of you are left together. You will be like lonely trees on the distant mountaintops. 18 Yet the Lord still waits for you to come to him so he can show you his love; he will conquer you to bless you, just as he said. For the Lord is faithful to his promises. Blessed are all those who wait for him to help them.
19 O my people in Jerusalem, you shall weep no more, for he will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. He will answer you. 20 Though he give you the bread of adversity and water of affliction, yet he will be with you to teach you—with your own eyes you will see your Teacher. 21 And if you leave God’s paths and go astray, you will hear a voice behind you say, “No, this is the way; walk here.” 22 And you will destroy all your silver idols and gold images and cast them out like filthy things you hate to touch. “Ugh!” you’ll say to them. “Be gone!”
23 Then God will bless you with rain at planting time and with wonderful harvests…’4
Most of us will have had these Isaiah 30 moments when we lost sight of our core commitments, drifted into idolatry, talked and even prayed as if—instead of the power of the Holy One of Israel—the structures and the money were the things that would bring the blessing. Having become infected by the progress-oriented culture around us we will have found it easier to sing the psalms of orientation rather than the psalms of disorientation. And even when we face our fears, make our confession and contemplate coming together—making space for the messy-ness of fasting and mourning—we may well find ourselves fearing Jesus, the ‘Man of Sorrows’ who said, ‘Blessed are those who mourn’.
4 Isaiah 30: 10-22 TLB