"... my sins have been bound into a yoke ... the Lord has rejected all the warriors ... I rebelled against His command ..." [Lamentations 1:14-18. NIV]
If only! Regret truly is a terrible burden. You can hear it in the voice of this poet. If only the people had listened. If only they had not chosen to rebel. If only ...
“If only. Those must be the two saddest words in the world.” [Mercedes Lackey]
- If only….. the children of Israel had not forsaken God.
- If only….. they had listened to the continual voices of the prophets calling them to repentance.
- If only….. they had not allowed power and wealth to corrupt them.
- If only….. they had realised that by ignoring the poor and marginalised they were offending God.
... and now the Poet is standing watching the horror and destruction of his people and nation. You can hear the heartache of regret as he watches the consequences of choice.
When you live on this planet long enough, you, like the poet in Lamentations, will at times say. "If only ..." Regret is something that plagues us because of our broken, sinful nature. People who have experienced regret can easily continue under a cloud of condemnation for a long time. It is important to process, understand, and learn from our mistakes. [Click here to read some practical thoughts on dealing with regret]
Thankfully, when you are walking through the valley of regret, there is still hope! Our journey is taken with a God whose mercies are new every morning, whose faithfulness is unwavering, and whose grace is still amazing!
c. The Sorrow of No Happy Ending
The book of Lamentations ends abruptly ...
"Joy is gone from our hearts; our dancing has turned to mourning ..." [Lamentation 5:15. NIV]
The poem ends with no resolution in sight. There would be no happy ending on this planet for the poet and many others to follow. How we hate that! With our Christian book stores brimming with literature telling us how to get happy, the thought of no happy ending is not a concept we like to entertain.
In fact, we try and insulate ourselves from it by creating our Christian bubble, floating in a theology more aligned to Peter Pan and Never Never Land than with the Bible. We don’t stop and ask ourselves how many people will die with no happy ending ...
It is funny how the book of Job is ignored in many churches except to beat the living daylight out of its context and meaning. The argument boils down to: "Well, it has a happy ending!" A moment of reflection: Job lost his children ... Job does not have a happy ending. Sorry. It has a peaceful ending, an ending that demonstrated God’s faithfulness, but no-one ever replaced those children. Nothing took away the sorrow of this loss.
We come full circle – suffering cannot escape the people of God. The heroes of faith in Hebrews 11 experienced suffering. Many never saw the promises of God reach fulfilment in their lifetime. They were commended for their faith despite their circumstances, not because they lived in a Never Never Land bubble.
Suffering interweaves the lives of those who follow Christ. For some, this suffering will not always end HAPPY on this planet. Cliché answers or cheap comfort do not cut it. This is where the community of Christ potentially makes one of its greatest contributions: that together we encourage one another, we love one another, we refuse to embrace foul heresies and doctrines of demons that condemn people who are suffering in our midst. We strengthen. We hold together!
... and ultimately our desire for a happy ending is spiritual. Provision was made for an ultimate ending before our story began ... A lamb was slain, before the foundation of the world ... and the thin, fine, unbreakable thread that runs through Lamentations is one of ultimate Hope ... which we’ll talk about tomorrow.
[Guest post by Nicole Conner]