At the beginning of November, we celebrate the lives of those who are no longer with us as we give thanks for them. Many faiths have been celebrating All Saints Day and other similar remembrances for over a thousand years. It gained an entirely new relevance as it kicks off the month of November for Americans, who celebrate Thanksgiving at the end of that month.
We can’t talk about those whom we have lost, our saints, without acknowledging the grief associated with the loss. Grief is real. And it is okay to acknowledge, appreciate, and experience grief as a Christian. We shouldn’t think less of ourselves or anyone else because they experience grief.
Let’s talk about lamentations -- the passionate expression of grief or sorrow; weeping. The Bible is filled with examples of God’s people lamenting losses or otherwise. Yes, there is an entire book devoted to lamentations, appropriately enough named Lamentations. It is a collection of poetic laments for the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BCE. But there are lots of other examples. (see additional readings listed below). Even Jesus lamented. Jesus’s last words before his crucifixion, as shared in Matthew, were a lamentation.
We are going to experience things on this earth which cause us to lament. There is no avoiding it. I can’t explain why. But the Bible shows us that is the case.
We refer to God in parental terms – Father or Mother God. Our Heavenly Parent. Those references begin in the Bible. But God is not a helicopter parent. God is not hovering above us preventing our feelings from being hurt. Being a Christian doesn’t mean we get to bowl our way through life with the bumpers up.
Is God always there for us? Yes. Does God provide comfort and peace? Yes. Does our faith provide us with that connection to God? Yes. Does God answer prayers? Yes.
There are many churches that have figured out that hope is a big selling point. Our faith does provide hope. I believe that God provides hope, but churches often misdirect and misinterpret how it works. And it goes back to some of the same things Jesus railed against with the Pharisees. They blamed one’s misfortunes on sin. Today, some churches are essentially making the same or a very similar argument – God answers prayers for prosperity (wealth, hope, etc.). If you aren’t healed or suffer a grievous loss, or you don’t get rich, then clearly you weren’t praying hard enough or for some reason God chose not to answer your prayers. But I don’t think God works like that. Why would God work that way now when God didn’t work that way when Jesus was here on this earth?
Now, don’t get me wrong, we cannot overstate God’s greatness, God’s majesty, God’s power, God’s grace, God’s magnificence, and God’s glory. But how and why God chooses to answer our prayers might be a mystery to us. With faith must come trust.
But without question, God is always there for us. That is where we find hope. That is where we find comfort. That is where we find peace. On that we can depend.
Matthew 26:36-46; 27:45-46