6 July 2016

2 Samuel 1:17-27

"David intoned this lamentation over Saul and his son Jonathan." (v. 17)

Psalm: Psalm 115



Can you imagine a church turning a Sunday service over to a lament? When was the last time you heard a full lament at a funeral? Sometimes we seem to have bought into an understanding of our faith that requires us to be happy and cheerful all the time. Yet in this song of Israel we see something very different. We see a distraught David pouring out this great lament, full of sorrow and despair.

Not only has Jonathan whom he loved died, but with both Jonathan and Saul gone so has all David's hope for the future. Perhaps unlike us, David does not worry about expressing his despair and loss. He does not sit back and fret that others are going to feel he is weak or faithless.

Yet our society is so obsessed with image that we are under continuous pressure to filter out anything from our behaviour and our expressed feelings, that looks weak or as if we can't cope.

We struggle with the idea of God allowing suffering so we refuse to express our suffering and so can't bring it to God.

But surely key to Christian faith is the understanding that when Jesus was dying on the cross God was suffering in and with him. Which is why the extreme versions of penal substitution are so problematical. If God is simply punishing Jesus on the cross then God does not suffer and God cannot understand my suffering.

In both the Old and New Testaments the image of the Holy Spirit dwelling in God's people is there. When David in his sadness, despair and suffering lets out this great lament then surely the Holy Spirit is still there, still dwelling in him and experiencing this grief with him. In other words, when we suffer then, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, God suffers too. If God knows about suffering, and especially my suffering then it would be deceitful to not share it with God.

So maybe we should have more services where we use the laments in Scripture, and perhaps we need to write our own laments?

To Ponder

  • How do you feel about the idea that God suffers with you?
  • Have there been times when it would have been helpful to have a lament in worship? How would it have felt? How might it have helped?
  • A big one: How might the idea of God suffering in/with Jesus on the cross influence our understanding of why there is suffering in the world and how we can cope with it?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dave Warnock

Dave Warnock is a Methodist minister in the Leicester North Circuit based in Syston, Leicester. He is passionate about lots of things (including Scripture, discipleship, gender/sexual equality, pacifism and cycling) and loves being part of the Methodist people.