Saturday, 20 December 2008

I am the man

Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
the wormwood and the gall!
My soul continually remembers it
and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have 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.

So it's been a few years since this was the daily cry of my heart. For awhile it seemed every day was one of lamenting, one saturated with the stench of blood, filth and death. And I guess most days still are. I would say I am a different person now than I was then, and it was in part on this anvil this new me was shaped. I remember the afflictions and the wanderings. As do we all.

Things are in better perspective now than they were then I suppose. But I've been thinking lately about the gospel of the man who has seen affliction again from this new perspective-I guess I'm in a reflective mood and things keep reminding me of my time of wallowing in it. It is still powerful, still horrifying and still beautiful.

At the time I wept many tears and spilled much ink (probably melodramatically) echoing and pondering the cries of the suffering poet of the lamentations-especially the central work of the book, the third lament. The only one that carried in it words of hope, the one that personified the horror and points to life in death. It is pure gospel.

It is a world of judgment and pain into which steps the man of the lament. He is the archetype of human experience. He suffers God's wrath. He is brought down in darkness, walks in death. As we do. He is a chilling mirror to the torment of our souls.

To think that when God became a man, when he entered the broken world clothed in flesh, it was to this he came. This was the cry he took upon himself and made his own. Jesus wept at the death of Lazarus and perhaps this is what he cried; I have seen affliction. The wail of agony from the man suffering in his sins became his-indeed none could take it as he did. And he did take it-to the grave and back again. It was he who lay in the dust silently with our yoke of iron around his neck-a yoke that strangled and killed, one that no man could bear. But he bore it. And there in the midst of death and judgment he came giving a yoke that is easy, one of life and hope.

Though it may be hard to see in the darkness of the pit of despair, hope is there. For he is there. The man who was filled with our disgrace and came near when we were in the pit. He came, the man who was God himself, and showed that he had not cast us off forever. There in the pit of death he descended to us. There he wept for our destruction, and there he redeemed our lives as his was vindicated when he rose. We don't deserve this dark and painful grace, the beauty and power of the cross. We are scum and refuse. Yet he takes up our case.

The years have abated the sorrows with which I cried this lament. It is however as stark and profound a proclamation of the gospel as ever. Though I no longer struggle through it, it still has the power to make me weep-though now from a new perspective. Praise God that he has given such voice to the cries of our hearts and more than that taken them himself in the person of Christ.

The Lord indeed is good to those whose hope is in him.