“He has made my teeth grind on gravel, and made me cower in ashes; my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, ‘My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord.’” Lamentations 3:16-18
Chapters 1-3 is filled with lamenting, sadness, and grief. God’s chosen people have come to a point where they have “forgotten what happiness is” (v. 17b). They have tried to persevere through all of the loss and pain but they can’t anymore. Their hope in the Lord has “perished” (v. 18). Only a few verses later the poet is reminded:
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’” Lamentations 3:22-24
Hope. There is always hope because of Him. Even in the moments when you cannot find a breath. Even in times of overwhelming pain and grief. Even in days of great loss. Even in the seasons where happiness hasn’t been an emotion felt for so long, there is hope. How can there be hope?
“For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love” Lamentations 3:31-32
The first thing that I noticed from this verse was “...though he cause grief...” (v. 32). Even though these verses are filled with hope, the one thing I cannot gaze away from is that he causes grief! If He is good, how can he cause grief to those he loves? How can he put us through such horrible things in this life? This is a big question to attempt answering, but to start answering it we must read the next verse:
“for he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men.” Lamentations 3:33
To afflict is to “cause pain or suffering to; affect or trouble” (Google dictionary) What we must realize is that the affliction and grief we face does NOT come from his heart. So maybe, just maybe this affliction is a means to the end. Maybe, in order for us to understand all of who God is, we must suffer in some way or many ways. It still seems so backwards. Within the same section of scripture it says “the Lord will not cast off forever” (v. 31) AND “he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love” (v. 32). There is a purpose to the affliction.
John Piper uses beautiful imagery for this section of scripture. He talks about a flood coming down a plain and if you put boundaries on either side of it, it creates a river and rivers are going somewhere. They don’t allow the flood to sweep over the whole plain to destroy all of the crops and other things. The waters may be very strong and deep and very painful but they’re going somewhere, and there is a goal in their destination.
The fall of Jerusalem occurred in 586 B.C. and the book of Lamentations ends in wondering:
“Why do you forget us forever, why do you forsake us for so many days? Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored! Renew our days as of old—unless you have utterly rejected us, and you remain exceedingly angry with us.” Lamentations 5:20-22
Will God remember His people? Will they be restored? Will He remain angry? We know the answer and they did not. Oh, the anguish. All of this ugliness desperately needed a savior, a sacrifice that would cover all sin, forever. A perfect sacrifice.
And then, about 580 years later, He came - not how many would expect, but He came. He was not born into wealth or royalty. He came humbly, ready to serve and to trust that His father in heaven would provide what He needed. He faced ridicule and accusations. Those whom He loved, turned their backs on Him. He was arrested for wrongdoings that He did not commit. And in the end, He was beaten and brutally murdered.
Oh, the love and compassion He has for us. That God would send His own son to the slaughter to save us all! This is the gift we have been given. This is what we celebrate. Christ has come. We have been remembered and we have been restored.