He was such a happy boy. Until . . .
I often delight in the stories my wife Robin tells me about her second grade classroom. The retelling often causes belly-laughs: a crescendo of “Oh no!” or “He didn’t say that!!” or “She did what?!?!”
But then there are those stories that rip my heart out.
One little boy was such a happy little boy. He was exuberant with friends, excited about school, and exultant about learning.
Then his parents separated. His dad left the home. Robin sadly reported that this little boy’s disposition changed overnight. He became dour, sour, his head hung low. Divorce ultimately unglued his home-life.
The little second grade boy was never the same again.
Innocents suffer when they must live out the consequences of others’ behavior. Such was the case with children whose homes and lives were ripped apart because of their parent’s longstanding rebellion against God. The warnings were clear over hundreds of years by a dozen prophets, beginning with Moses:
Because of the iniquities of their fathers
your descendants will rot away. (Lev 26.39)
Your sons and your daughters shall be given to another people,
your eyes look on and fail with longing for them all day long. (Deut 28.32)
The book of Lamentations exposes how little ones suffer. Chapter one repeats words like “groaning” (5x), “no one to comfort” (5x), and “all” (16x) marking the totality of suffering. Chapter two indicates that in a besieged city mothers even ate their offspring (2.20-22). Cannibalism marks the nadir—“rock bottom”—of the place where we have sunk so low that we have no problem destroying our own children. Horrors of war on the littlest ones include torture, starvation, and cannibalism (2.20-22). In our culture we declare war on our own unborn through abortion.
Lamentations expresses some of the most outrageous, total-response-to-pain I’ve ever read in Scripture. As difficult as it is to read, I’m personally glad it’s there. I am reminded how what I do will affect others.
Is there any hope? Jeremiah, companion volume to Lamentations, expresses God’s wishes for ourselves and our offspring in the midst of suffering. We are to work for the peace of the place we live. This “peace” is shalom repeated three times in 29.4-7. “Shalom” means completion, fulfillment, wholeness.
How can we provide “wholeness” for the innocents amongst us who suffer? Here are a few starting points:
- I do need to meet the needs of those who suffer.
- I do not need to blame the victim. Asking, “What did you do?” solves nothing.
- I need to allow people to vent their rage, vocalize the anguish, despair.
- I should never “walk on by” when I see little ones in lamentation (1.12).
- I should let little ones question both the length and severity of their suffering (1.18, 4.9).
I wish I could say that the little boy is “back to normal.”
Because of his parents’ divorce, his life will never be “normal.”
May we make sure that our decisions will not make innocents suffer.
There is MUCH more to the book of Lamentations, of course. This is but one truth brought out during the seventh teaching in Dr. Mark Eckel’s class on “suffering” at Crossroads Community Church on 25 October 2015. The teaching videos are being uploaded at http://comeniusinstitute.businesscatalyst.com/video