I read the book of Lamentations yesterday. The title says a lot; maybe that’s why it’s a book that remains relatively obscure as compared with most of the other books in the Bible. Not a cheery title, and not a cheery book overall. Books describing devastation and destruction usually don’t find their way to the best-seller list. Lamentations follows Jeremiah – one of my favorite books – and tradition says he also wrote Lamentations.
One of the reasons I love the Old Testament is for its roller coaster rides through emotions. You don’t have that in the New Testament; the Old is full of exuberant joy and immense sorrow; victorious conquests and devastating defeats. And in this book Jeremiah laments and grieves over the destruction and desolation of Judah and Jerusalem. Jeremiah is crushed, but realizes and understands that God’s people repeatedly turned from the one true God to serve other gods. The consequences of this lie before him; he is a weeping prophet over a weeping city (1:2).
There’s nothing like reading this book on a dreary, rainy, cold morning. Not a huge pick-me-up or encourager. Philippians is a much better choice to put a smile on my face, but the melancholy in me is moved by the poetic rendition and reasoning of the reality of God’s justice. Distress. Despised. Destroyed. “My eyes fail because of tears…” (2:11).
“The Lord has done what He purposed; He has accomplished His word…” (2:17). God’s discipline was just; the reality was incredibly painful to experience. And so it goes for us. We all fall from grace. Each of us comes short of God’s intent, God’s best, God’s desire for our walk with Him. We make choices that carry consequences, and there are times when those consequences are severe, long-lasting, and/or life-changing. We look around, we see the devastation – the result of our errors – and we weep. I trust we realize, as Jeremiah did, that God will accomplish His Word and His will. He is God. We are not.
Without pain, there is no healing.
Without suffering, there cannot be renewed joy.
Without rejection, there can be no sense of hope.
As he reflects on the overwhelming reality around him, the light bulb flicks on in Jeremiah’s mind. An ah-ha moment! In 3:20-21 he remembers – he recalls – his mind is refreshed and renewed. “The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I have hope in Him’” (2:23-24). Sandwiched in the center of this 5-chapter book is a glow, a light, a shining ray of hope and joy as Jeremiah shares his reason for his hope: God’s love is still there for him. Yes, we sin. Yes, God disciplines. But He never leaves us, and His love is secure. “You drew near when I called on You. You said, “Do not fear!” (3:57)
In the midst of whatever is churning around us in the boiling pot of life, we too can cling to that hope of His faithfulness, His lovingkindness, and His compassion. We can weep, we can mourn, we can grieve, and He is there with us.
“Let us examine and probe our ways, and let us return to the Lord. We lift up our heart and hands toward God in heaven” (3:40-41).
“You, O Lord, rule forever” (5:19).