In the pandemic we are now experiencing, many are looking for possible answers to why it is occurring. Is God punishing us for our bad behavior? A culture, like ours, that has embraced rationalism, demands an explanation. But what if there isn’t an explanation? What does the Bible have to say when there aren’t answers to everything that occurs in the world? Is it merely a time to simply lament?
Let us turn to the Biblical references of lamentation, expressing sorrow and mourning. Psalm 6 pleads: “Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak; heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled.” Psalm 9 asks: “Why do You stand afar off, O Lord? Why do You disregard me in times of affliction?” And Psalm 13 goes on the say: “How long, O Lord, will You forget me to the end?” Jesus Himself in agony quotes Psalm 21: “O God, My God, hear me; why have You forsaken Me?” We lament when we ask why and don’t get an answer. This is how we feel on Holy Friday evening chanting the Lamentation of the burial of Christ. We mourn in disbelief that our perfect and Holy Lord had to undergo such horrible and brutal beatings and scourging when He could have summoned a host of angels to have rescued Him from such an ordeal. Why, O Lord, was it necessary to go so far in order to save humankind from eternal death? However, through faith, we accept God’s plan for our salvation, are thankful for His loving kindness and mercy to us, the profligates.
N.T, Wright, Anglican Bishop and professor of New Testament and early Christianity at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, and prolific writer of numerous Christian Books writes the following: “The point of lament in the biblical tradition is not just that it’s an outlet for our frustration, sorrow and loneliness and sheer inability to understand what is happening and why. The mystery of the biblical story is that God also laments. God is grieved to His heart, Genesis declares, over the violent wickedness of His human creatures , and the turning away from Him of the people of Israel.” When Jesus visited earth by His Incarnation, He would often lament seeing the effect on humans due to the fall in paradise but always empathizing and showing compassion. A lucid example of His lament, sorrow and empathy is when He visited the tomb of Lazarus and saw the corrupt condition that death holds on human beings who were meant originally to live an incorrupt eternal life in God’s Kingdom. At the tomb of Lazarus Jesus wept. (Jn 11:35)
It is no part in being a Christian to be able to explain everything that is happening in the world and why. Sometimes we must simply lament. In our isolation due to the pandemic, we can become receptacles of the healing love of God. And out of that can emerge new possibilities, new acts of kindness, new hopes and new knowledge.