“Consider now! Call for the wailing women to come;
send for the most skillful of them.
Let them come quickly
and wail over us
till our eyes overflow with tears
and water streams from our eyelids.”
These wailing women were most likely professional mourners. Notice, however, that God and Jeremiah are not calling the women emotional or insignificant. The women are not silent. They are not nice to have around. No, they call the women “skilled” because the women had learned and practiced the spiritual discipline of mourning. They are called upon to lead the community in wailing because they had been there before! They know exactly what to do when death and destruction are all around.
— Natasha Sistrunk Robinson in Voices of Lament: Reflections on Brokenness and Hope in a World Longing for Justice (Revell, 2022).
In Voices of Lament, editor Natasha Sistrunk Robinson has gathered together some of the wailing women of our own day—women of colour who give voice to the brokenness in our world and to their longing for God’s justice.
Their lament takes the form of poetry, personal reflection, story-telling, litany, drawings, and prayers shaped both by Scripture and by what they have seen and experienced in our world.
I found this book difficult to read since it lays bare so much abuse, suffering, and pain. For this reason and out of respect for each voice, I recommend reading Voices of Lament section by section as I did. The book makes it easy to do that, since the short chapters and poems are arranged in seven sections that follow the seven strophes of Psalm 37.
At the same time, I found this book profoundly hopeful in the way it joins lament with walking in faith.
We choose to walk in faith when we help our neighbors navigate their pain, giving them space to process and mourn. Together as a community, we identify the lies we have been told by empire. And we replace those lies with the truth that God deeply loves us and delights in who God has created us to be. We remind Brown children and adults alike that their presence in our community is a blessing and they are altogether valued and needed to help our communities thrive. (page 97)
— Bethany Rivera Molinar, a fronteriza Chicana living and working in El Paso, Texas; executive director of Ciudad Nueva Community Outreach; board member of the Christian Community Development Association
It grounds lament and peacemaking in God and not in our own efforts.
Believing that God is the ultimate arbiter of justice gives us the freedom to pursue peace. Knowing that God is with us and that he sees every injustice allows us to lament and proclaim his kingdom come while actively working to change the circumstances around us. The power of the Holy Spirit and the truth of the Bible embolden believers to set our faces like flint to stand against violence, knowing that the Lord is able and willing to help, therefore, we “will not be put to shame” (Isa. 50:7). This assurance also gives us the freedom to accept the outcome even if we don’t see the fruit of our efforts. (pages 104-105)
— Jenny Yang, a Korean American leader who has worked over a decade in refugee protection, immigration policy, and human rights; senior vice president of Advocacy and Policy at World Relief
It celebrates God’s faithfulness.
God is faithful to redeem and restore what is broken. (page 69)
— Ruth Buffalo, a citizen of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation; originally from Mandaree, North Dakota; an educator, public health professional, and politician.
Some of the contributors in this book are familiar to me, while others are new. I’m grateful for their example of faithful lament.
Disclosure: Thank you to Ellen Graf-Martin and Baker Publishing for providing me with a complimentary copy of Voices of Lament: Reflections on Brokenness and Hope in a World Longing for Justice edited by Natasha Sistrunk Robinson (Revell, 2022). The choice to review and any opinions expressed are my own and freely given.
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