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  • Writer's pictureSinclaire Sparkman

God's Tears for Us: A Sermon on Lament

Updated: Jan 21, 2022


I always had my nose in a book when I was young. I loved to explore new worlds created through text, how authors would capture meaning, give us a conflict and draw it to a resolution. I can still imagine the train car from boxcar children, the dragon in Eragon, and the animal-to-human transformation in Animorphs. Books make the troubles of the world seem farther away, much like what happens when we open up to God. But there was one book in particular that left me with an image I will never forget.

There are seven books in the Chronicles of Narnia, the most well-known of course being the third book: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, but before there was a magic wardrobe and talking animals and an evil ice queen, there was a boy, Digory, and his neighbor, Polly, who got transported by magic rings to a wood, and through mystic pools in this wood they travel to a dark and vacant world where they witness firsthand the creation of the land of Narnia.

As an adult, I am impressed by the parallels C.S. Lewis creatively drew between the Bible and the story of Narnia, especially in the creation story laid out in The Magician’s Nephew. The entire scene is exquisitely crafted, from the utter darkness comes a song, and from that song ripples light, water, grass, trees, and animals bubbling up out of the ground, all singing in turn with the huge Lion who paces to and fro.

The whole reason Digory is in London, where he meets Polly and gets sent on this epic adventure, is because his mother is ill, seemingly unto death, so they’ve had to move in with aunt and uncle after his father got sent to India for work.

Digory and Polly (but moreso Digory) happen to be responsible for bringing the evil ice queen with them to Narnia at the birth of its creation. Because of this mishap, Aslan, the great lion who sings the world into existence, sends Digory on a mission to right the wrong.

The image that has stayed with me all of these years since I read The Magician’s Nephew as a child is the image of Aslan’s tears as Digory, in utter abandon of his pride asks Aslan for a cure for his terminally ill mother if he succeeds in his mission. He dares to look up from staring in shame at Aslan’s huge claws and looks instead to the golden-brown face of Narnia’s creator, the one Digory wronged so much by bringing the evil queen into this world before it began, and in Aslan’s eyes, Digory finds tears. Not just any tears, the biggest tears he’s ever seen. All of Digory’s grief is reflected back at him, and he even thinks the lion may be sorrier about his mother than he is himself.

And Aslan says, “my son, my son, I know your grief is great. Let’s be good to one another.”

How often in our pain do we focus on the wrath of God as Digory may have as he stared at the enormous claws of Aslan? He might have thought, if I ask this, those claws may cut off my head.

We want to revel in our mistakes, compound our misery by thinking God only wants to punish us…Look up! He has tears in his eyes for you. He will not cut you. He wants to embrace you, especially in your suffering.

Throughout the Bible, the people of God went through much more than illness. They were shipwrecked, persecuted, enslaved, jailed, beaten, and killed. God’s people suffered widescale oppression, and because early Christians threatened the powers of the time, they were often killed. But even in their destruction, they were not silent. They dared to look up into the face of God and ask for what they needed.

Our world today is fractured in many ways. We’ve been torn apart by politics, by the pandemic, by fear, and by paralyzing silence. When we met our first round of quarantine measures I’ll admit, I was scared. Beyond the apparent misery of being “safer at home’ the implications brought on by government interference in our lives was amplified and contrasted by our need for safety. We were assailed mentally and physically, intellectually and spiritually. Our world became unsafe. The verse in 2 Timothy kept coming to my mind, “for we were not given a spirit of fear, but of power, and love, and a sound mind.”

It sounds nice and it’s true. We do not have to be afraid because there is victory in Jesus!

But what about those for which there is no victory in sight? What about those who have died as a result of racial injustice, coronavirus, or abuse?

In our insurmountable grief, we lament. There is always lament.

When we lament we recognize our powerlessness against the forces of darkness and turn our hope to God. When Jerusalem was destroyed and when David was run out of his kingship, lament was on the lips of the people of God.

We may at first be offended by the psalmist who asks, “How long O Lord? Will you forget me forever?” We may be offended by the writer of Lamentations who says, “The Lord has become an enemy.” We may even be offended by Jesus who in the garden of Gethsemane cried tears of blood in distress and asked God to give his mission of Salvation to someone else, or how he cried out on the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

It is in these moments when God’s heart breaks for us. It is in these moments when we should find the courage to look up into the tearful eyes of our savior and grieve with Him instead of fearing him.

God’s heart has broken for his creation since the very first lament in the Garden of Eden, “Where are you? Why did you hide from me?” This was God’s lament, and he was sad because he had been separated from his creation. Jesus weeps over his dead friend Lazarus, joining in the suffering of those he loved, even though he knew there was more to the story. As Jesus cried out to God from the Cross, entreating his spirit to the one he knows would never abandon him.

Lament is not meant for whining or to position ourselves in opposition to God, no. Lament means that we humbly pour out our grief before the Lord because we have nowhere else to turn and all of our earthly hopes have failed us. We lament because we see no end to the suffering. We lament because we have no power in us. We lament because we know God is the only one capable of doing anything to help us.

In Lamentations 3 the strongman in a broken Jerusalem goes on verse after verse lamenting of how he is beset by wild beasts and snickering foes, but in the midst of his turmoil he says his soul is bowed down, and he remembers his hope: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

Digory lamented for his mother. He didn’t suffer in silence too afraid because Aslan’s claws were big and capable of destruction. He looked at Aslan’s face and saw the reality of his character.

We cannot truly know God without pouring out our sorrows before him. We cannot know God until we surrender our suffering to Him. We cannot know God until we face him with the understanding that he has only grace for us.

We find the truest faith in the Bible when we read the psalms and passages that question God, purely and humbly asking where he’s gone. In 2 Corinthians 12 Paul boasts in his weakness, he pleads with the Lord three times about affliction, and in verse 9 God answers him. Paul writes, “But he said to me, ‘my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’

When we relent the endless quest to find meaning in the absurdity of life’s traumas and instead look up at the tearful face of our God, the God that sees all of our pain, who comforts even the most broken, we can find an eternal hope that offers us a rope out of the pit of the deepest despair.

So cry out to God! He is bigger than anything you face. He is bigger than your complaints and your questions and he desires the closest relationship with us. He wants to hear you speak from the depths of your heart.


Let us pray.

Oh Lord, see our brokenness.

Humble us before you so that we can see your face.

Turn your heart to us so that we may feel your comfort.

Be with us every day.

Amen.


This photo was found on pinterest.com.

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