“But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”
The deepest longing of our soul is the all-satisfying hesed of God—not in the abstract, but first-hand knowledge and experience, a tasting of God’s hesed. Have you been delivered by the hand of God, tasted his mercy, seen his power, heard his word, felt his presence? The degree to which we have known the presence and power of God is the degree to which we get a sense for what it meant that Jesus was the Son of God, and how devastating it must have been to bear the judgment of God against sin. All lament leads us to Jesus, in whom our sorrow and pain finds ultimate identification and hope.
The apex of bewilderment and spiritual chaos for Jesus was on the cross. The physical pain was excruciating, yet it was nothing compared to the shock and horror of being forsaken by the Father. The wrath of God was poured out on Jesus, the whole weight of the world’s guilt bearing down on his shoulders. He felt the pain and loss of humanity. He internalized our anger and shame. He, who knew no sin, became sin (2 Corinthians 5:17).
In that moment, he took up the lament of King David: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34). When he said this he not only took our sin upon himself, but also voiced all our laments. For underlying all our laments are two questions: “God, where are you?” and, “God, if you love me, then why?” For the first time in all of eternity, Jesus felt the absence of the Father’s presence and the uncertainty of his love. God could not look upon the sin that Jesus became.
Why did it have to be this way? If Jesus was God’s answer to ages of laments, how did he end up in the most lamentable position of all?
One approach to the question is to consider why so many ultimately rejected him, even his own people (John 1:11). They had expectations about what it would mean for God to answer their prayers and solve their problems. The disciples, too, regularly stumbled over their expectations. They hoped the Messiah would conquer the Romans and vindicate Israel. Instead, he predicted the destruction of the temple and died for the Romans. They wanted the Messiah to give them answers. Jesus gave himself. He predicted his own destruction, and then endured it in order to conquer our real enemies: Satan, sin, and death. Jesus did not take away lamenting. He took it up. Having endured the cross, he secured for us the one thing we need more than solutions: the presence of God.
“Lament is the path that takes us to the place where we discover that there is no complete answer to pain and suffering, only Presence” (Card).
Spend some time meditating on the suffering that Jesus endured.
How would the presence of God be more satisfying to you than answers from God?
So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. Return, O Lord! How long? Have pity on your servants! Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil. Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!