Home General News Sharing the Book of Lamentations with 6000 Women at Sunrise

Sharing the Book of Lamentations with 6000 Women at Sunrise

by ervte

It’s 12:30 in London. The long summer sun has set, and I’m churning alone with our dishwasher, washing tonight’s dishes in the background.

My husband reminds me that I volunteer at our church’s used book sale in the morning. We are raising money for Tearfund’s work in Ukraine. It is a small but important responsibility.

He has said his piece and has now gone to bed.

I open my laptop and prepare to join thousands of Christian women who will do the same half a world away in Australia.

Right now, Christian women of all ages are gathering in church halls across the country to attend Equip22—an incredible conference for women who want to be challenged, encouraged, and nurtured by God’s word.Sharing the Book of Lamentations with 6000 Women at Sunrise

Equip started in 1999 in Sydney with 135 women. Since then, it has grown into a Bible-teaching ministry with more than 6,000 women attending their conferences each year. Everyone gathered to watch the live stream remotely this year, many in church groups.

I can join these women in London because I agreed to refrain from listening to the music due to copyright licensing issues. Music or no music, I look forward to learning from the book of Lamentations what God has to say to me over the next five hours.

I must confess that I don’t remember much about this book. Our church in Sydney looked at it several years ago, and my memory is fuzzy.

Sandwiched between Jeremiah and Ezekiel, I quickly rediscover that it is a rugged and raw look at suffering and crushing grief.

It speaks of God’s righteous wrath and judgment when, after centuries of warning his sinful people to return to him, he finally forsakes his city and destroys it in 587 BC. Drop to the mighty Babylonians.

In the pitch-black London night, I am confronted with an image of a woman weeping in her grief as she copes with the consequences of her sin.

“My eyes do not fall from crying; I am tormented within; my heart is poured out on the ground because my people have been destroyed because children and infants faint in the city’s streets. They say to their mothers, ‘Where is bread? And wine?’ while they faint like the wounded in the streets of the city, while their lives fade in their mother’s arms’ (Lamentations 2:11-12)

For those wanting to experience Equip22 for themselves, I suggest you stop reading now. You can still register to watch it until July 20. And the next part is full of spoilers.

Annabel Nixey, the conference’s first speaker, speaks powerfully of that terrible day when Jerusalem fell—the hell on earth experienced by God’s people when the Babylonians besieged the city for 18 months.

But as the city cried out in pain, there was a glimmer of hope. For amid her suffering Jerusalem, at last, cried out to God.

The book of Lamentations shows me that even in the ruins of utter devastation, we can go to God in our suffering. We could show God our pain and let him know his heartache.

As Annabel emphasizes, no sorrow is too great for God to bear. He sees us sobbing behind the wheel of our car. He sees us on that bathroom floor.

The sorrow of Jerusalem is also clear. She knows exactly what has brought her to this point. And now she knows that God’s judgment is real.

Fortunately, God’s word has not left us there.

Somewhere during the conference, there will be an hour for lunch. I turn on my phone alarm and take the opportunity to sleep. When the alarm goes off, it’s time for session two.

Tash Leong and Sophie Robson open the Bible to Lamentations 3 and get to those most Instagrammable verses – 22 and 23: “Because of the great love of the Lord we are not consumed, for His compassion never fails. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

These verses shine brightly in the darkness, sandwiched between two grief-stricken passages. They are rich in meaning now that I know their full context.

This is hope, battered and bruised, holding tight to God’s goodness. It’s the hope that cries out for mercy and clings desperately to God’s compassion when we want to crawl into a hole and die there. Sometimes it keeps us breathing when the pain gets too much.

These verses show that God will not leave us in the mire. There will be salvation, a restoration. We are not without hope. We know we are not consumed even in the heart of deserved destruction. We have a God whose compassion for us never fails.

The Equip team enjoys the Colin Buchanan bloopers.

After encouraging table discussions, Di Warren takes us through the final chapter.

A Contemporary Lamentations. Di emphasizes the Wailing Wall in modern-day Jerusalem. It’s all left of the old temple, and she shares a photo of the crowd in front of it, all old mourning Jerusalem.

Jerusalem was God’s city. This was the place to find God and His blessings. This was the city where he once lived with his people. But the city of God became a city of tears: “Remember, Lord, what has happened to us; look, and see our shame. Our inheritance has been handed over to strangers, our homes to foreigners. We have become fatherless, our mothers are widows.” (Lamentations 5:1-3)

As Di points out how Lamentations ends with an ominous question about God’s wrath, I can’t help but feel the weight of his judgment against our natural sinful state. As the conversation continues, I am confronted with the sadness that comes from seeing and truly understanding our limitations.

“Woe to us, for we have sinned!” says the author of Lamentations.

This was not suffering for the sake of suffering. This suffering was deserved. Yet God, in His grace, had a plan. One so breathtaking in its display of love and grace that it has changed the whole world. Forever.

And that’s where Di takes us next. As the morning light slowly begins to break over the old English buildings in our street and the morning birds begin to sing, she points to God’s incredible grace, seen most deeply through Jesus.

Something even more astonishing than God’s exiled people returning to Jerusalem in 538 BCE, God’s king, Jesus, enters Jerusalem 400 years later to die for her. To die for me.

All alone in our small flat, I ask God again to forgive my mistakes, pride, and selfishness. Forgive my desire to pursue and love many things other than the one who created and provided them.

I cannot thank God enough for Jesus, who saw my fallen condition and judged in my place and took the full consequences of my sins.

I am so thankful and sorry that Jesus took my punishment on His shoulders and went to that cross in my place.

The conference will soon be over. I close my laptop and go to bed, my heart heavy but hopeful. This year’s Equip was certainly one to remember.

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