The suffering of the Israelites in the brickyards of Egypt was not the consequence of their sin, nor was the suffering of the Jews in the camps of Auschwitz.
Some of the suffering of our world even resists our seeing it as the counterpart of anyone's sin --- the accidental death of a child, for example.
Is the suffering of the world also some sort of epiphany of God? Or is our experience of suffering just separate from our experience of God?
And yet others testify that what they experience in suffering is the absence of God, the abandonment of God. What the secularist sees just as unmerited suffering, they experience as God's mysterious and painful abandonment.
"In all their affliction, He was afflicted."
In our afflictions, God is afflicted. Over our suffering, God suffers. Over our mourning, God mourns. Over our weeping, God weeps. I suggest that what the believer sees in beholding the suffering of the world --- the thought makes us tremble, I admit --- is no less than the suffering of God.
What the believer sees when beholding the rabbi from Nazareth on the cross is not only human blood from sword and thorn and nail, but the tears of God over the wounds of the world.
The God who has covenanted Himself to humanity suffers over our suffering.
But most of us do not experience God in this suffering. Most of us do not see it as an epiphany of God.
And so, though we bring our experience of suffering to our assemblies, we do not know what to do with it there. Though praise and confession play large roles in our liturgies, lament plays only a minor role. We skip over those desperate psalms and songs of lament from ancient Israel. And our intercessions, which ought to be grounded in sorrow over the sorrow of the world, give voice at best to muffled cries of pain. The lament, "How long, O Lord?" is scarcely heard. Though we bring our tears of pain with us to our worship, we don't know how to cry them there.
Tears in the assembly are regarded as liturgical failure.
I suggest that a liturgy without tears is a failure. We must find a place for lament.
And we must genuinely experience the world as the suffering of God and feel the agony of lament; otherwise the words of intercession are mere words. Authentic experience and life in the world is a condition of authentic liturgy. If the condition is not satisfied, God finds our words, songs, and gestures deficient, sometimes even nauseous.