LAMENTATIONS 2018 | DAY XX

Read Lamentations Three 

This week, we’ve considered the role that Chapter 3 plays in the overall structure of the book of Lamentations. We’ve given particular attention to the verses that praise God for His unchanging character – His wrath and compassion and steadfast love. And with this in view it would be easy for you and me to consider these short verses of relief in the middle of the book and deceive ourselves into thinking that this is what the book is “really about.” When we come upon verses of reprieve like we do in 31 through 33, it’s easy to dismiss what has led up to this point and what will come next, telling ourselves that this must be the central theme of the book.

But even though everything in the book hangs on Chapter 3 – and Chapter 3, in a way, hangs on verses 31-33 – the central theme of the book is not devoid of suffering. If we were to tell ourselves that God’s commission is primarily in view here, it would do a disservice to the book as a whole. To be sure, the book is truly about suffering, sin, repentance, God’s wrath, God’s compassion, and God’s covenant faithfulness. 

Commentator J.A. Moyter identifies this well (from The Message of Lamentations, a commentary – page 104):

One might focus so predominately on the words of hope and assurance in the centre of Lamentations 3, or assert that they are the ‘real message’ of the book, that one undermines the integrity of the voices of suffering that surround them. … There is certainly nourishing faith and hope at the heart of the book, but we arrive at it and depart from it along roads of intense pain. And the Poet is still walking that road even as the book ends. So we trivialize that if we set it all to one side and dig out only the hope at the center. If we do that, we merely collude with those who pass by and leave Zion comfortless (ch. 1).” 

As all the grieving know, you cannot ignore suffering and bring comfort. It just doesn’t work that way. So as we continue through this book in the coming weeks, we must remember that these verses of hope can only be understood in the context of suffering.

Consider how you’ve approached this book in the past. Have you done this?

 

Have you approached suffering in your own life or in the lives of others in this way – rushing past the pain to get to hope in a way that dismisses the suffering?

 

On the other hand, we don’t want to make the equal opposite error. We would be remiss to press the hard line of suffering without acknowledging the there is real hope offered here in the middle of the book. The suffering of the poet is not ended by the reminder of God’s unchanging character, but it is softened. There is real hope found in the eternal reality that God remembers, that He is compassionate, and that He keeps His covenant promises.

Consider how you’ve approached this book in the past. Have you done this?

 

Have you approached suffering in your own life or in the lives of others in this way – maintaining the sharpness of suffering while refusing to be comforted by who God is?

 

The book of Lamentations finds neither extreme, but it holds human suffering and God’s unchanging character together – uncomfortable as it may be. And I can’t help but notice how similar this is to the Christian life. As we walk with God (and sometimes away from Him) we experience the suffering of sin. Sometimes this is our own willful disobedience or rebellion against God, and other times it is just the suffering of a fallen, sinful world broken at the Fall. But in every area of our suffering, God’s character is unchanging. We can’t explain it, understand it, or defend it. But we certainly will experience it.

 

PRAY & REFLECT

Thank God that His character is unchanging. Ask Him to prepare you to jump back into our study of suffering verse-by-verse next week. Ask what work He might want to do in your heart over the next several weeks of our study. 

Author: amygannett

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