“For these things I weep; my eyes flow with tears; for a comforter is far from me” (Lamentations 1:16).
“By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for and by the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil” (Proverbs 16:6).
When cities are destroyed, all the people who live there pay the price. Jerusalem was devastated by Babylon; other places crumble by corruption from within. individuals desperate to hold onto power are ultimately confronted by the people they oppress. It doesn’t matter where in the world it happens; tyrants will be challenged. Sometimes the oppression is overt: police brutality, government control of production and distribution of goods, and persecutions are examples. Other times the quest for power is stealthy, couched in words of compassion or justice or protection. This approach is far more dangerous; people get swept up in a feel-good message and they don’t consider the source, the purpose, and the ultimate mission of the movements. In both overt and stealthy demands for acquiescence to some form of human power and dominance, the end result is tumult, chaos, and violent upheaval. It might be local (recent events in Seattle), national (protests that led to riots in major cities across the US in the Spring of 2020 or the Arab Spring of 2011), or international (any war in the history of the world). Wherever and whomever is involved, the damage to people and property is devastating.
The empty streets and ruined buildings that follow destruction wrench the heart and turn the stomach. Grief has a physical component that compounds the emotional, psychological, and spiritual. The author of Lamentations felt the full weight of grief as he surveyed the damage wrought by Babylon. His response is mirrored by our own when we witness violent devastation by one group of people upon another. It feels hopeless and we feel helpless.
Hopeless and helpless represent the natural state of humanity without Jesus. No amount of legislation can change the hearts of people. No motivational speech can instill love toward one another. Government cannot make people good. When the Church and believers trust the systems of humans for salvation, they turn those systems into idols. Government, legislation, law enforcement, and the like are tools of protection put in place by God. They cannot save anyone’s soul, nor are they truly and consistently just.Iniquity (sin) can only be atoned for by steadfast love and faithfulness, two things no human on this earth can achieve.
God, in His love and mercy, made a way, interceding by offering His righteousness and salvation in Jesus (Isaiah 59:16; Romans 5:7-18). Even when it seems like the wicked are prevailing, the Lord hears our lament and our authentic repentance, both for our individual sins and for the sins of a nation (Lamentations 1).
The Church must lead the way to individual and national repentance. The Church must lead the lament for our times. And we who are believers must recognize that we may be part of the problem. In our own repentance and lament, we may see how God intends to do a work in us and through us, even when the days are dark.