Following the death of his wife, C.S. Lewis wrote a beautiful and painful reflection later published as A Grief Observed. In this book, Lewis poured out his heart and laid his grief bare for all to see. After describing the nature of his grief, Lewis unapologetically wrote,
“Meanwhile, where is God? Go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside.”
Who talks like this? We may expect to find such a confession from the pen of an atheist, but not a world-renown Christian author and apologist. The same man who wrote Mere Christianity, a guide to faith in Christ for so many, questioned God’s very presence in his time of need. What is Lewis doing?
Lewis is practicing the art of lament; quite beautifully actually. He hates his grief. He mourns his loss. He confesses his loneliness. Much like Jesus on the cross, Lewis feels forsaken by his Father. He looks at the world as it is and longs for something better.
Ecclesiastes is a book that teaches us how to lament the world as it is and long for the world as it will one day be. In Ecclesiastes 3:16-4:3, the Preacher observes the injustice and suffering that fills every corner of our fallen world. Even when he looks in places where justice should prevail, he finds wickedness. Powerful people oppress weaker people. We see it in our world all the time in various wicked forms: racism, misogyny, bribery, extortion, gentrification, slavery, sex-trafficking. The worst part is that it can’t be stopped. Those with power will continue to take advantage of those without no matter how hard we try to change it. Life is simply not fair.
In light of our fallen, broken, wicked, unjust world our passage this week provides three sobering reminders:
Reminder 1: Lament the painful parts of life. Lamenting is a godly discipline. Like the Preacher, observe the brokenness of the world. See the injustice. See the oppressed. Hear the repetition of life’s tragic chorus of pain and suffering. See it and hate what you see. Weep over what you see. Grieve the world as it is. Though sprinkled with remnants of Eden, every day reminds us just how far from the Garden we have drifted.
Reminder 2: You are a mere creature. Sin, evil, pain, and suffering are often outside of our control. We can’t stop them. We can’t predict them. The world as it is reminds us that we are creatures, not Creator (Eccl. 3:18-22). It’s a humbling thought that one day you will die just like your dog. But humility is necessary to face a brutal, unjust world without going mad. When suffering and injustice cause you to feel confused, angry, and abandoned, remember that you are not God. You are his creature. He is perfectly wise, perfectly good, and perfectly in control.
Reminder 3: Long for the perfect judge to execute perfect justice. The only way we can cope with rampant injustice and suffering in the world is to know a reckoning is coming. Judgment day is coming. God will not allow one oppressor to go unpunished (Eccl. 3:17).
The best part is that God made a way for his justice to be satisfied and his people to be pardoned. The innocent Jesus simultaneously faced injustice at the hands of sinful men and justice by the hand of our sovereign God in our place. A day is coming when God will set all things right. In the meantime, lament injustice, trust the God who loves you, and long for that day with sure hope.
Mathew Gilbert is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is a student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God. Mathew and his wife, Erica, live in Tupelo with their three boys, Jude, Jack, and John.