A Lament

(composed twelve years ago) O Lord God, you are the Almighty One, who ordains both good and evil. Who can straighten what you have made bent, and who can fill up the gaps you appointed? When I search for understanding, I cannot grasp you. Though I look intently, you elude my wisdom. In my quest, adding one thing to another to discover your ways, while I search intently for insight, you escape my comprehension, for you conceal yourself in things too deep for me, you reveal yourself with riddles. Who is wise enough to grasp you, O Lord? Who knows the explanation of all that you have ordained? Who can unravel your ways? Who can straighten what is twisted, or provide what is lacking, things which you commanded and established? You have been my God, even before I knew you; you were my deliverer, long before I heard your name. O Lord Almighty, you have sustained me through all my days; in all my ways, you have preserved my life, God Most High. When I was yet a child you disclosed yourself to me; you concealed yourself in unfathomable kindnesses. You revealed yourself in profound acts of love; before I could speak you made yourself known to me. Lord, you appointed that I should cry, so that you might comfort; that I should fall, so that you might pick me up; that I should come to the brink of death, so that you might deliver me. My God, you ordained that I be humbled by many blows, in order that you might protect me; that I be disciplined under your heavy hand, in order that I might know your love; that I be pounded by waves of grief, in order that I might trust in you. Almighty One, you established shadows to be my friends, that I might look for you; darkness to pursue me, that I might run after you; heaviness to close in on me, that I might flee to you.

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God, my God, you decreed pain for me, that I should find that you alone bring comfort; weariness, that I might discover rest only in you; innumerable rejections, even from my friends, that I might know that you alone choose and do not abandon, and that only you are truly faithful to those whom you love. All my days I have cried out to you. I have raised my complaint to you, O Lord, throughout my life. Do I raise my lament against a man? It is you, O Lord, who ordains what comes to pass. Yet when I cry out, my friends clasp hands upon my mouth. My own companions muffle my complaint. When I cry out, “How long, O Lord, will you submit me to this injustice?” My own friend rebukes me saying, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble? Does not God ordain both the good and the bad? Why then do you not submit with resignation?” How few, O Lord, can endure the cry of agony! How few grasp that those whom you love, you also inflict, and those who lament inequity do not cry out in rebellion against your dominion. I lament that my friends are loath to endure lamentation. It grieves me that those who walk with me seek to silence my plaintiff cry. Have they never been afflicted? Have they never suffered under your mighty hand? Do they know nothing of the stinging pain of your discipline? Are they ignorant of the heaviness of grief? Are they fearful to acknowledge acquaintance with evil? Do they suppose that lament betrays lack of trust? Do they not understand that both good and evil are our lots from you? Are they so foolish as to suppose that only goodness falls under your rule? O Lord, you know my heart. I call upon you to be my judge. Examine me, and you will find me faithful; test my thoughts, for they are upright. Weigh my words with scrutiny, and you will conclude that my tongue has not blasphemed. Yet what do I find among my fellows? Righteousness is supplanted with crookedness; injustice drives out justice. Perversity prevails where one expects honesty to be upheld, and prejudice replaces integrity. Though a man of ability be found, another takes his place. Though he be skilled in his work, 2

he is passed over for another. Though he is wise and understanding, his wisdom is reputed as foolishness and his understanding as vanity. Though he is prudent and confident, his prudence is honored from a distance and his confidence is dismissed as arrogance. Though he chooses words carefully, he is accused of malignant speech. For when he speaks truth with measured care, he is condemned for rash judgment. As vinegar is useless to those who love only honey, so integrity counts for nothing among those who cherish only sweet words. With words of sweetness they declare all things wholesome. From their midst they banish truthful and corrective words. Like perfume poured upon a rotting corpse, so are the words they speak over things insidious. Their fondness for sweetening makes them insensitive to things bitter; their forbearance with all that is charming sedates them. They heap flattery upon me when no one is listening, but when their words count, they injure me, even to my face. Who are these friends who use words so callously, for whom I have often interceded? Who are these companions who wheedle for gain and bear tales to injure others? I am beaten down with the footprints of their words; I am devastated by their fickleness. How grieved I am with the smugness of their accomplishments, for they have ascended upon the downtrodden, and they have perched themselves upon those whom they have injured. You have been my God, even before I knew you, you were my deliverer, long before I heard your name. O Lord God, you are the Almighty One, who ordains both good and evil.

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