Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Silence is Golden

The following reflections are on Lamentations chapter 3

After we've done something wrong (even "blowing it, big time"), when we are called to account for the issue, we may accept the punishment at first. But it is easy to begin feeling we are being unjustly punished when the situation seems to go on without end. Such was the case of the Israelites who were punished by their God for not only individual, personal transgressions against their God, but also national sins, communal guilt.

In the clips below, you will notice I cite them in reverse numeric order. The purpose is to accentuate how the writer of Lamentations builds his "line of reason."

Verse 39" "How can a living man indulge in complaints, an able-bodied man on account of his sin?"
Yes, our imperfect tendency is to start complaining. But we would never want to minimize the situation that got us in the mess we're in. Especially when we are praying to God about our situation, complaining would not demonstrate true repentance nor respect for the one we are speaking to. True remorse would help us appreciate we haven't any ground to stand on when it comes to self-justification, minimizing our guilt or even feeling we've paid enough.

Verse 37: "Who, now, has said that something should occur [when] Jehovah himself has not commanded?"
We might even start trying to "reason" with God, claiming that the time that has passed is more than enough payment (punishment) for the sin. We might, in effect, say that "something should occur" to release us. (Especially if/when we leave Jehovah, what our actions say is: "I've waited long enough. Jehovah should have acted by now.") But who are we to say that guilt for the punishment has been satisfied? Is that not up to God? If he has "not commanded" it, then what can we recall that may help us to cope?

Verses 31, 32: "For not to time indefinite will Jehovah keep on casting off." For although he has caused grief, he will also certainly show mercy according to the abundance of his loving-kindness."
Yes, first we need to keep in mind that Jehovah is not unrighteous. He is not cruel and, unlike prison systems in this world, his terms of punishment are not cold, blanket application of rules, but a carefully designed training for our growth (Hebrews 12:11). In the meantime...

Verse 26: "Good it is that one should wait, even silently, for the salvation of Jehovah."
Yes, here is the theme, "Silence is Golden." Sometimes decades of waiting may have to be endured. And though this hardly seems comforting to those that have endured a long time, it does demonstrate that type of person God wants us to be. Do we truly treasure, as verse 24 says, that "Jehovah is my share"? If so, then we will agree with the writer of Lamentations who continued in verse 24 with: "that is why I shall show a waiting attitude for him." In this regard, I remember a Hollywood disaster movie where a father told a son to wait for him at a specific location and he would come for him. Even when the situation got desperate, the (adult) son took whatever precautions he could to follow his father's direction. Now, Hollywood movies always exaggerate things but it does drive home the point that if a son can trust his father that deeply (and some in real life do), why can we not also trust our heavenly Father just as much if not more. If he tells us to wait, then wait.

So, when things are not moving as fast as you think they should, don't give into desperation and into feelings of worthlessness. Don't give up in your service to God. Don't give out on your faith or desire to live.

Waiting silently is never easy for us--and I can speak from my own personal experience. For over 17 years I've waited for changes that would once again give me a sense of restoration, a sense of worth, a sense of being valued, a sense of belonging. Sometimes I've been less patient than others. Recently a companion recommended possibly seeking a change of situation by moving elsewhere. He told a true story of man who likewise felt worthless. He moved to foreign country and reestablished a life for himself, one where he felt appreciated and valued. I cannot fault anyone for the decisions they make to better their life. However, for me & my situation,  that would seem like an attempt to take matters into my own hands instead of waiting on Jehovah to raise me up and dignify me in the midst of my brothers.

The whole of the 71st Psalm is very fitting here; especially verse 21. Although I have no desire to be "great," it would just be nice to feel I have a worthwhile purpose and am a valued member in the congregation of God. And so, I keep waiting; and I've resigned myself to the possibility that I may die waiting.

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