Today we look at God’s sadness, what this sadness says about us, what it offers, what it reveals to us about the God we worship. Preached at Good Shepherd, Taylor and St. Martin’s, Fort St. John.
What do you get like when you’re sad? Is it a weight in your chest or perhaps in your stomach. Do you find yourself tense and stiff? Do you find that you melt and collapse? Do you shut down or explode your emotions to anyone who will listen?
We meet God in his sadness this morning. Jeremiah proclaims that God’s joy is gone. The joy of having a people he had chosen in the land of his promise set apart, visible, for his name’s sake was gone.
Is there a balm in Gilead? You know when Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers the men he was sold to were transporting balm from Gilead to Egypt. So physically there was a healing resin there. Part of God’s provision in giving his people the promised land was to give them this balm. But his provision had not been enough for them. They failed to recieve what he offered and made themselves to suffer. “There is a balm in Gilead so why are my people not healed?” asks God.
“The summer is over and still God has not restored us” the people ask. “We cry out to him and he does not hear us” they wonder. We wait for God to deliver us sometimes from our pain. Sometimes like the people of Judah we want deliverance from our own actions. It took three generation before God began to restore his people. Three generations of waiting in exile. Waiting can be excruciating. We reach helplessly for anything that could possibly help. We flail and we struggle sometimes getting caught deeper in the swamp.
We cast about in our desperation. God sees this, and sees that his people choose- in their comfort as well as in their desperation- other gods. And ours is a jealous God, who wants our hearts. He looks at these people, he hears their cry “is there a God in Zion?” and he asks back “if there was why are you worshipping all of these other gods and calling on them for help?
Hearing the agony and the suffering and the crying of God I’m reminded about a missionary in Japan. A man she was speaking with pointed to a fat contented and happy Buddha. He then pointed to an image of Christ Jesus suffering upon a crucifix and asked ‘which god would you worship? A god of joy or a god of sadness?’
O that my head were a fount of water so that I could cry day and night, God says. He looks at his people, and he sees their wickedness and folly, and it makes him weep. He looks at his judgment against them and it is terrible, and it makes him weep. And he looks at their suffering and he cries for his poor people.
God always was the God who would hang on the cross, who would suffer at the hands of and for the sake of his people. Our God is such a king that he would suffer and serve to present his bride the church to himself beautifully, having washed her with water and the word. We have a God who sees us suffer, and meets us in that suffering. We have a God who is jealous for us and pursues us. Not one who is filled with happiness at uncreation but who weeps in the face of its necessity. Not a god of detached peace, but one who comes into the worst of the muck, knowing full well what it is, who weeps for Jerusalem when he sees her.
We live real lives. Lives of suffering, righteous suffering from love, deserved suffering from our brokeness. And we have a God who meets us in that suffering, weeps with us, and transforms it. We have God who victorious over the grave meets us with a wound in his side and holes in his hands. Let us praise this God who meets us in our sadness, who at the last will wipe away every tear, having first transformed us in our suffering.