Read Lamentations Three
Verses 19 and 20 reflect the negative memories of the Man of Suffering. Today, we will continue to look at the theme of memories in this passage, thought they take a sharp and deliberate turn.
Read Lamentations 3:19-24. What are the positive things the Man remembers? List several.
Who does he believe God to be, as revealed in these verses? List an attribute (or character trait) of God’s that you derive from each of the following phrases:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases:
His mercies never come to an ed:
Great is Your faithfulness:
The Lord is my portion:
What is the difference in tone between “remember” in verse 19 and “this I call to mind” in verse 21?
Where the dark memories of the first verses seem to come to the man without bidding, this remembering is willful and intentional. Though he lies on his bed with the horror of his past and present suffering dancing unrelentingly in his mind, he sharply turns his mind to the things of God.
The phrase “this I call to mind” is vital for our understanding of what is happening in this passage. If time and space permitted, we would do an entire week on a word study working through this phrase! The meaning of this phrase in Hebrew is rich and poignant. Let me do my best to distill my study in a few, concise sentences.
A literal translation of the phrase, “this I call to mind,” is “This I cause to return to my heart.” In Hebrew, the heart is not considered the source of all emotion, as it is in our culture. We say we “hold people in our hearts” to speak to our affections and loves, but that is not how the cultural Hebrew would have used the word. Instead, the heart was understood to be the home of the mind and the will. The Man of Suffering is not just feeling his way toward affection for God in these verses, but he is intentionally invoking his mind and will. He is insisting that the truth of who God is returns to his consciousness. He is inwardly insisting that these memories of God’s goodness return to his heart. Commentator Christopher Wright says that the Man, “knows that he knows, and he knows that he needs to get it back into his thinking right now” (Wright, Lamentations p. 111).
How does this change your reading of these verses?
There is a substantial contrast between the thought the man naturally holds in his mind and the ones he is intentionally seeking out. Our natural, human thoughts are often negative. Our “default setting” is not one of thinking on the Lord and His truths, but one focused on ourselves, our suffering, and the brokenness of this world. And this is not all bad – we would have no book of Lamentations to study if the poet was not willing to remember the suffering of his people! But one of the marks of the life of faith is intentionally calling to mind the truth that we know, insisting that we embrace and believe it and KNOW it, and letting our hope arise from that fertile soil.
How is God calling you in your current situation to call to mind the truth of who He is?
Look back at the attributes of God you listed above. Which of these do you know you know, but need to embrace deliberately in faith?
PRAY & REFLECT
Spend some time talking to God about who He is. Praise Him. Thank Him. Ask Him to embed these truths in your mind and to help you willfully call them to mind as needed.