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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Tuesday, October 1, 2019           

Today’s Scripture Reading | Lamentations 1:1–6

How lonely sits the city that once was full of people! How like a widow she has become, she that was great among the nations! She that was a princess among the provinces has become a vassal. She weeps bitterly in the night, with tears on her cheeks; among all her lovers she has no one to comfort her; all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they have become her enemies. Judah has gone into exile with suffering and hard servitude; she lives now among the nations, and finds no resting place; her pursuers have all overtaken her in the midst of her distress. The roads to Zion mourn, for no one comes to the festivals; all her gates are desolate, her priests groan; her young girls grieve, and her lot is bitter. Her foes have become the masters, her enemies prosper, because the Lord has made her suffer for the multitude of her transgressions; her children have gone away, captives before the foe. From daughter Zion has departed all her majesty. Her princes have become like stags that find no pasture; they fled without strength before the pursuer. (NRSV)

It can be hard to read this, tempting to lock it away as history or allegory. It helps to remember that these passages were written as poetry, a form that, for me, can make room for emotion in a way other forms do not.

I have felt betrayed by friends, abandoned by loved ones, miserable in the night with tears on my face. And more than once. I have felt exiled, by choice when I was too heartbroken to stay, or in being shunned as I stayed put.

Even as I mourned I knew I had my own actions in part to thank. Maybe not in full, maybe not to the degree that I suffered, but I had some part in it, some piece I was going to need to address. Knowing this didn’t make me feel any better, but it did mean I wasn’t a passive participant. There was action I could take to change, if not that particular situation, then my future.

This isn’t true for all suffering, of course. Too often the temptation is to assume that there is, that suffering is in some way deserved. It’s yet another way we work to keep suffering at a distance from ourselves. But there is no end to those who have been abandoned by others with the means to turn away.

Why do we read this? To remind ourselves of our own suffering and place it within a larger story. To remind ourselves of others’ suffering, that not all have what we do. To open our ears so that we remember that this moment of suffering, ours or others’, is not the final word. The story goes on. And if we listen, we may be surprised to learn how we can act.

Loving God, in the midst of all suffering may I remember your power and mercy; may I call on your strength and grace, so I may keep moving. Amen.

Written by Anne Ellis, Program Manager for Congregational Life

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