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This Hurts

Lamentations  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  19:44
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Sermon June 20,2021

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THIS HURTS Lamentations 1:12-22 June 20, 2021 What is the worst thing that has ever happened to you? Life is complicated, and complex. Most of us don't dwell on what might go wrong, we focus almost exclusively on the positives out in front of us. But, we live in a fallen world, where anything can happen. What is the worst thing that has happened to you? Did you lose your job? That is no small thing. In the past 20 years psychologists have come to understand losing a job is an actual loss. The person who identifies with their job, then is suddenly unemployed, goes through the 5 stages of grief. Or maybe your worst thing is death, perhaps the death of a parent? In the course of a normal life we understand our parents will precede us in death. That is the normal way of things. Doesn't make it pleasant. Depending on your relationship with your parents, it can be quite devastating when that moment finally comes. What about the death of a spouse? If you are in your 80's the death of your spouse is not altogether unexpected. On the other hand, that probably means you spent most of your life together - and losing your life partner impacts every moment of your day. Everything you do reminds you of their absence. And, it's not any easier if your partner dies young, early in your marriage. All the plans you made, all the dreams you shared together - gone. How about the death of a child. That may be the single most traumatic loss anyone can suffer. It is so devastating, 4 out of 5 marriages do not survive the loss of a child. Human sexuality is a complicated issue, and can account for some of the worst moments in our lives. What happens when your partner loses interest in you, no longer finds you appealing, or seeks out a different partner? How hurtful is it if your partner abandons interest in intimacy with you? What about rape? A complete violation of you as a person. An act so traumatic, a 5-minute chance encounter can alter and impact the rest of your life.1 Or, and this is terrible, the sexual abuse of a child.2 An event so horrific it permanently altars the personality of the victim for the remainder of their life. Very few things can change us all the way to our core. But, this can. And, if it happens to be a trusted family member who commits the crime, the outcome is catastrophic. Trust is so severely damaged, the victim almost always pursues a high-risk self-destructive lifestyle. There are so many things that can go wrong in life. There are so many opportunities for tragedy to overtake and overwhelm each of us. The list of what can hurt us is infinite. As people, we have a complicated relationship with our Creator. When hurt finds us - is it ok to be frustrated, impatient, and even outright angry with God? Spoiler alert - it's ok. Throughout the second half of Lamentations poem number 1, chapter 1, the speaker is the city of Jerusalem herself. The city is portrayed as female, and as the favorite daughter of God.3 She has been completely pillaged by the Babylonians, and is left a burning ruin. At this point in the poem, Jerusalem freely acknowledges that her pain is her own fault. She confesses her sin, and openly admits she brought all of this on herself.4 Here's what is important - that doesn't diminish her suffering one bit. Yes, a lot of the pain in our lives is our own fault. But, when it comes to suffering, the source of the suffering is irrelevant. It hurts. Whether someone else brought tragedy to us, or whether it was completely random, or whether it is the inevitable consequence of our own actions - at this point we're all the same. It doesn't matter whether we deserve or wounds our not. We hurt. Jerusalem cries out, no one has ever hurt as badly as I do right now. Now one has ever suffered like I am suffering right now.5 And, isn't that exactly how we all feel when tragedy comes to us? Pain is personal. Pain buries us in a deep, black hole. We feel isolated, completely alone. And, it 'feels' like no one else has ever endured such suffering before. When the worst thing to ever happen to you, happened to you, how did you feel? Did you feel embraced, supported, and encouraged by God? Statistically speaking, if you are a person of faith, you felt attacked and abandoned by the very God who claims to love you. You questioned your faith. You questioned whether God is good or not. You questioned the very existence of God. Suffering brings each of down to our lowest level. Jerusalem cries out to God; I am worn out with my pain.6 Have you ever been there? Has life ever beaten you up so badly, that you just don't have anything left in your tank? Have you ever had all of your hope bled away? Maybe at this time, you even thought, it's time to be done. I need to just end it all. The pain wins. I give. You need to know you are not alone. Everyone has been where you are. You will survive. And, you will find hope again. I know it feels like no one has ever hurt as badly as you, but there will be good in your life again. Jerusalem says to God - I have suffered extreme physical violence. The physical wounds are massive. But, they don't begin to compare with the emotional pain I feel right now. The mental damage I've suffered dwarfs all the physical pain. And, Jeremiah tries to describe through metaphor just what emotional distress 'feels' like.7 In verse 13 he writes, 'it's like fire from heaven came down and is burning inside my bones'. The pain is deep inside, and I can't reach it for relief. Verse 14, 'My sins were woven into ropes, and were used to tie me to a yoke'. This feeling that we can never escape the mistakes we've made. We are permanently and forever bound to the wrongs we've committed. Verse 15, 'I have been trampled like grapes in a winepress'. I am crushed beyond recognition, and everything important has been bled out of me for someone else to use, and enjoy. My suffering is the source of delight for others. Verse 20, 'My heart is broken, and my guts are twisted into uselessness'.8 I know, each of us has felt that before. When we are so distressed, our suffering takes on physical symptoms. When our emotional pain actually takes over our body. The fact we all recognize Jeremiah's illustrations, shows just how universal and cross-cultural suffering really is. No religion, race, income, or education spares us from being hurt and wounded. Pain is common to all of humanity. And, then Jerusalem continues - worst of all; by far and away worst of all, is that you're not here, and you don't hear me. Have you ever felt that? Have you ever felt that God has gone away from you, and no longer hears your prayers? Maybe you feel like your sin has permanently separated you from the Holy One. It can feel like we have done something so wrong, we finally crossed a line. Like we finally reached a point so low, God has said - no. I won't go there. You are on your own. You don't deserve my love anymore. A couple points here. We never deserve God's love. Even when we are at our very best, we don't deserve God's love. God doesn't love us because of who we are; God loves us because of who he is. And, there is nothing you can do, which will take God's love away from you. Never confuse what you feel, for what is true. Do you know the name Jesus used the most for the Holy Spirit? The Comforter.9 Jesus didn't come to save the righteous, he came to save sinners. Jesus wasn't fooled about our true nature. He knew we couldn't live a life without sin. And, in Jesus' perspective, the most important character of the Holy Spirit is to bring comfort to sinners. Comfort to the wounded, the broken, the fallen, those with fire burning in their bones. If you feel like God has abandoned you, like he refuses to hear your prayers, that is a lie. Satan would love for you to embrace that lie. But, it is a lie. When you have reached absolute rock bottom, it's then you are finally and completely alone with God. That's when you finally get one on one time with the Lord. Now, Jerusalem freely admits she brought her suffering on herself. It was a direct consequence of her sin. But, when we were talking at the beginning about what is the worst thing that has ever happened to you - most of my examples were not the fault of the sufferer. Losing your job, losing a loved one, losing correct and descent intimacy. None of those is the fault of the victim. And, if your suffering is not from a direct action of your own, you may not feel worn out, or burning bones, or crushed and drained. There's a really good chance what you feel is anger. God, you were supposed to take care of me. Why didn't you help me? What kind of a God are you? There is a Hebrew word, which frequently finds its way into American vernacular. Chutzpah. Have you ever heard that word? We use it to mean someone who is kind of gutsy and daring. The 90-pound weakling who confronts the 200-pound bully, in the cafeteria, in the middle of lunch. Chutzpah. The person walking down the street, and a baker asks - would you like to try a sample of our bread? And, they take the entire basket and walk away. Chutzpah. Do you know where that word comes from?10 The Jews in Jesus' day were terrified of confronting God with anything other than adoration. They pretended God never disappointed them. They feared violent retribution if they dared to express any displeasure with God. And, Chutzpah, was coined to describe the maniac who dares to shake his fist at God and cry out - I am angry with you. I don't think you're very good at your job. And, I am angry. Jesus and Jeremiah are in complete agreement when they both say - God is big enough to handle your anger. Anger is a valid emotion. When injustice finds us, anger is appropriate. When tragedy comes through no fault of our own, anger is appropriate. When we are victimized, and no one protects us, anger is appropriate. But, even in the midst of our rage and anger, God still loves and embraces us, and cares about what we are feeling. Jerusalem has been burnt to the ground. All of her treasures have been stolen. All of her people have been enslaved. The Holy Temple, built by King Solomon himself - has been pulled down stone by stone. And, Jerusalem is angry. Why didn't you protect me? I know this was my fault, but couldn't you have done something? Did you really have to completely destroy me? I don't understand. This begins 70 years of Exile in Babylon. The prophets Daniel, Ezekiel, and Zechariah document these years. And, we find something amazing about this time in the life of God's people. They dig deeper into God's holy word, than ever before. People throw themselves into the Bible. They begin to live holy, not out of fear; the worst that can happen has already happened, what's to fear. Instead, they live holy out of hope, for what might come next. And, they begin to abandon ritual memorized prayers, and each person begins speaking directly to God - from their own heart. The church which comes out of the Exile knows their God more passionately and intimately than any other time in their history. Should they be angry with God for that? That's a hard one, isn't it? The world you and I live in inflicts an infinite number of wounds. This is not Heaven. Here in this place, terrible, terrible things happen. If you have not yet suffered, hold on to your hat, because it's coming. But, you are not forgotten. You are not abandoned. And, you are not being punished. Even if your suffering is your own fault, you have not been singled out for pain. Jesus Christ came to save the wounded, the broken, the unwanted, the unlovable. And, the vehicle for that salvation was the unfair and unjust murder of Jesus. But, Jesus triumphed over his suffering. And, he offers that same victory to you and me. When you hurt, it's ok to cry out. When you have been wounded, it's ok to cry. When you are worn out and used up, it is ok to feel despair. It's ok to feel like no one anywhere has ever hurt as badly as you do. That's ok. If you cannot see the purpose in your suffering, it is ok to be angry. But, I need you to know - in fact, I need you to be absolutely certain - the Holy Comforter still embraces you. God still loves you beyond all reason. And, God is step for step with you, as you endure the worst thing that has ever happened to you. 1 Steven Stack & Mary J. Kanavy, "The Effect of Religion on Forcible Rape: A Structural Analysis," Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 22 no. 1 (March 1983), 67-74. 2 Priscilla L. Denham, "Toward an Understanding of Child Rape," The Journal of Pastoral Care, 36 no. 4 (December 1982), 235-245. 3 Raymond B. Dillard & Tremper Longman III. An Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 310. 4 R. C. Sproul, general editor. New Geneva Study Bible (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995), 1243. 5 Norman Gottwald, New Interpreter's Study Bible (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2003), 1145. 6 Denise C. Flanders, "What Did YHWH do in Lamentations 1:12?: Correcting a Misreading in the DJD Edition of 4QLam," Vetus Testamentum, 66 no. 4 (January 2016), 513-523. 7 NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016), 1322. 8 C. L. Seow, "A Textual Note on Lamentations 1:20," The Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 47 no. 3 (July 1985), 416-419. 9 Sproul, 1243. 10 Mel Leaman, "Love's Angry Lament: Confronting Our Anger with God: Based on Lamentations 1-3," Journal of Pastoral Care & Counseling, 63 no. 1 (Spring 2009), 16-20. --------------- ------------------------------------------------------------ --------------- ------------------------------------------------------------ 2
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