LAMENTATIONS – CRIES OF DISTRESS OF THE SOUL a reflection on Jeremiah’s Lamentations (@minidvr)


The People Mourning over the ruin “Gustav Dore 1866 (public domain)

It’s not often that we hear the expression ‘lament’ in today’s modern English, but it was much more common in history, in literature, poetry and the words of song.

But to hear the plaintive ‘lament’ of a soul is something that one never forgets.  To hear the lament of a whole people as in ‘Lamentations’ is something to break your heart, trusting that you have one to be broken, that is?

On several occasions I have heard that plaintive lament of a soul, normally on the occasion of a great trauma involving a close relation or friend.  An accident or death following some violent incident.  Several times in my service life, having to visit a family, following the death or injury in action of a husband or son; the news of  which can be at first greeted with a stunned silence, followed by the most heart rending wail of the soul as the dam bursts and emotions drains out in a cry of lament.

This is the time when your own heart may be torn and you may feel like joining in, but your role is pastoral care. To be the listener, the supportive, gentle, compassionate companion in the grief and the inevitable consequences that follow from it.   To support them through the life changing journey they’ve now embarked on.    The world for them stops for an instant and than starts again as a darker, frightening and lonely place.   There is nothing that you can do to alleviate their pain, just be there as a friend and companion in all circumstances.

I remember the words of a service widow, whose husband had died some years before; “That the grief and pain never goes away, you just get used to it.  It can strike at any moment, even years later.  A word, a letter a memory will spark it all over again and you will be in tears, on your knees begging God to give you some peace”.  Something to contemplate in our dealings with the bereaved, even years after their loss.

If we read lamentations in it’s context how desperate the situation for the Jewish people was.  The lamentation and cries from the heart of a destroyed and desolate people.  They’ve been invaded.  Jerusalem has been destroyed, their people dispossessed, killed or transported into slavery [1].  A whole nation is bereft.

Reading across into our own context, we can imagine, even though we don’t experience it personally, the lamentations of the Syrians, the Palestinian’s and the many others across the world, who for whatever reason subjected to invasion or persecution. In many cases kidnapped and taken as slave labour, child soldiers or sold into sexual slavery.  Where whole populations have been dispossessed and forced from their homes to live hopeless lives in refugee camps dependent upon charity for every aspect of their lives.  That total loss of their human dignity and independence, let alone their heritage means that we should all be lamenting along with them.  Or working through prayer and practical means to stop the wars and conflicts scarring our world and restoring them to their homes.

God made a promise to the Jews that they would be restored to their homeland, which eventually was fulfilled [2], we are in no position at this time to make such promises to those displaced peoples – we seem powerless to help in any real ways.  The Palestinian refugee crisis has been going on since 1948.

But in Lamentations Chapter 3 [3],  there is evidence that faithfulness of the people of God, even at their time of greatest distress;

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”

Do we have such hope and faithfulness?

I find evidence of hope in the support given not just by Christians to the refugee’s in those places that I have named.  Other faiths and those with no faith rally around to work in these difficult situations, no matter how desperate they are.  Some aid workers have been murdered for their efforts, but people continue to travel to do this work, despite the personal safety risks to themselves.   I find inspirational  their love and faithfulness whether in God in in human nature, which renews and refreshes my own.

There is evidence from Iraq, that even in the middle of persecution, Christians are sticking to their faith, and being supported by people of other faiths in solidarity against barbarism, torture and murder.

Jeremiah described the lamentations of a desperate and desolate people.  We can hear them ourselves today if we have sufficient imagination – we need to respond with God’s words:

[4] So there is hope for your descendants,”
declares the Lord.
“Your children will return to their own land.

I hope and pray that we are able to come together to bring this about in their lifetime.

[1]Lamentations 1:13-15.

[2] Jeremiah 31:16-17.

[3] Lamentations 31:16-17

[4] Jeremiah 31:16-17

About Ernie Feasey

Anglican, Ex-Officer, trying to discern a vocation to Ordained Ministry