There are often scriptures that make us uncomfortable – those that make us wonder what this is trying to tell us and if it means anything for us today.
Lamentations is one of those books…most of us would prefer to skip it over. Who wants to hear about a person in difficulty, going through really tough time, struggling to make it? We have enough problems of our own and we don’t want to hear about someone else’s… But there is value in hearing about the struggles of those in the scripture. There is something about learning of the struggles and how they overcame…or didn’t. It can remind us that we are not alone in whatever we go through. It can let us know that our current situation is only but for a moment – even if those moments seem to last forever. And we can be reminded that God does not leave those that suffer – he does not leave them in their distress or in their celebrations. God is with us, no matter our situations.
In this book, the author is struggling with the destruction of Jerusalem. Their place of worship, their identity, their home has been destroyed. Who they are has been trampled upon. They look around and see nothing familiar because it is all war torn…destruction envelopes their very being. There are children starving, people dying, and no place to turn. The situation for so many seems hopeless. In Lamentations, there is a cry out to God…a tension of whether God cares…a wondering if God will ever help them again…a really feeling of abandonment. It is a place where the people are not sure where God is or if they are even his people…whatever that means. They are searching for identity. They are searching for rescue. They are searching for answers. And they are not finding any. It is a long, difficult road – and while they know they have broken promises…is God even in the middle of this anymore? Does God even care? Has God simply forsaken them and left them to die?
For the first two chapters and the beginning of the third, this is the essence, the searching, and the longing. It is difficult to read, yet we might just find a home in the middle of the mess. We might recognize what is going on. We might find we identify, at least in some part, with the struggles of those that lament. In chapter 3, the author is struggling with those that mock him for calling on God…those that have overtaken and destroyed the land…seeking to deflate the people…those that once had a strong name and served a powerful God…they are disgraced in the face of their enemies. What do they do now? What do we do when all we see are ruins where once there was beauty? What do we do with our lives when things not only didn’t turn out right…but turned out real wrong? Where do we go when our world continually gets hit…time after time after time…bad news, horrifying situations, indescribable pain? What do we do in the middle of it all?
And that is where today’s scripture comes in. That is where a little glimmer shows up…a little bitty light in the midst of a dark storm that has wiped our entire lives out…a welcome light in the middle of a night that has lasted way too long. Lamentations 3:19-26.
Now as we hear these words, I want to remind you that this is in the middle of the struggle…there has not been any changes to the situation…there have not been rescues or redemption or some awe inspiring revelations. The author has struggled and then…all of a sudden…at just the right time…he calls something to mind. Something deep in him reminds him of something he had forgotten. Deep down in the memory, there is something that appears and brings that glimmer. He writes…I call to mind…in other words, I remember. And in remembering, something changes. There is hope that was not there that appears…shows up…begins to change him…not the situation. A hope that is so small, yet so powerful. What does he call to mind? What is it that he remembers?
He writes…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 (that’s what his soul tells him)…therefore he hopes in God. Wow! What a remarkable glimmer of hope in an otherwise difficult, horrible situation! Just a little hope can turn things around when that hope is in God. And by turn things around, I don’t mean what is going on around him, the situation…I mean what is going on inside. This is a hope that abides even when all circumstances seem out of control and in destruction. This hope comes because of the steadfast love, the mercy of God. God is faithful. Even when we do not experience him…even when we do not understand…even when we look around and wonder where he is in all of this…even when we feel like we are abandoned…God’s steadfast love does not end…his mercy is new every morning…great is his faithfulness!
That is an amazing hope that does not answer any of our questions or alleviate the suffering…but at least begins to help us to move forward…to seek what God is up to…to trust that he is still with us. When we can be reminded…either by our memory…or by others that love us and are with us…we can find hope…God does not leave us.
And that is still not all…The Lord is good. But this goodness comes in both waiting and seeking. The author finds God’s goodness in waiting and seeking. If we are continually held down in our distress, we may miss what is right before us. We may not seek if we are so captured by our struggles. To simply stop…wait…and seek. God is here. God is present. God has not left us. God is still good.
None of these are easy answers and I’m glad. Easy answers and cliché sayings offer little or no comfort when we are in the type of distress that the author has been describing. Long term, these do not offer true hope or help or answers. They are good things to help us through a small, quick struggle. But when we get caught up in the mire…the mud…the overwhelming despair, we need real answers. And this is where the hard work pays off…we begin to remember that we will not understand it all. We remember that God calls us to wait…to seek…to simply be. His mercies are new every morning…even though the night seems to have lasted for weeks on end. His steadfast love is greater than any of our distress…even when we are not sure of it looking around. God is faithful.
Where is your hope? Maybe today is the day to begin to dig down deep…to remember…to wait…to seek. God just might be offering us a glimmer of hope that we did not even know existed.