"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" --Mark 15:34
Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, 'Father, into your hands I
commend my spirit.'" --Luke 23:46
"Laments, the most frequent
category among the psalms, begin with a
cry to God expressing anguish, suffering and abandonment, list reasons
for the suffering, plead with God for release and end with petition or
praise. Laments give voice to suffering with the plaintive realization
that alienation and suffering can be placed before God. The psalmist
clings to God at that very moment of God’s absence. The earliest
accounts of Jesus’ suffering and death embody the theology of lament,
and in [Matthew, Mark, and Luke] the final words of Jesus are from
laments." --John R. Donahue, SJ
acquaintances bump into one another on the street. One asks the other,
"Hey, how's it going?" and they reply, "Oh, I'm doing fine, thanks."
Except they aren't.
Turns out their heart is heavy with grief
over the death of someone dear to them. And this sorrow has only
intensified a medical condition that gets worse with stress, leading to
constant discomfort. They're worried about their children and don't know
if they will have a job next week.
But when asked the question, "Hey, how's it going?" who wants to be
the downer, the whiner, the complainer? So the brave face goes up, the
sorrow gets swept under the rug, and the silent suffering continues.
A couple of years ago, Newsweek ran an article entitled, "Happiness?
Enough already!" The gist of the article was that we live in a society
that is obsessed with "happiness." And living in such a society can be
pretty hellish for those who are not feeling particularly cheery or
superficially happy or who are even--gasp!--experiencing deep
depression. We're quick to throw medication at what sometimes is quite
an ordinary human emotion--sorrow. Don't get me wrong--I know very well
that there are circumstances when the help of modern medicine is
entirely appropriate and exceedingly helpful. But, by and large, we
don't know what to do with sorrow and so we don't do anything with
it--other than try to get rid of it or think there's something wrong
with us for feeling it in the first place.
I'm thinking about this today because tomorrow is Good Friday, the
day that Christians mark the crucifixion and death of Jesus. And it
seems to me that, of any day in the year, sorrow is an entirely
appropriate emotion to feel on Good Friday. We see Jesus, unjustly
accused, scorned, beaten, and killed--and it should affect us. Rather
than suppress it, sorrow is one way we are supposed to feel when we
consider the suffering and death of Jesus. Rather than try to explain it
or theologize it or understand it--just this one day, let's just feel
it. And perhaps shed a tear while we're at it.
A wise woman I knew, responding to someone who apologized for
shedding tears while recounting a very sad story, said, "There is no
need to apologize for your tears. They are a sign of your humanity."
Indeed. Tears, sorrow, grief--they are signs of our humanity. God help
us if they are not our response to the suffering and the pain and the
tragedies that are an inevitable part of being human.
If on no
other day of the year, on Good Friday let us lament and feel the sorrow
of a world that, if we could ask it, "How are you?" would have to
honestly reply, "I'm hurting."
Blessings on your week,
God, sometimes--in the midst of our pain and sorrow--we wonder where you
are. Help us to place it all into your care, trusting that you do not
forsake us. Amen.