Posted May 04, 2015
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: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 author of Lamentations poetically documents the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians in 586 B.C. as well as the suffering of God’s people. The book stands both as a reminder that God opposes those who turn away from His covenant, but also shows incredible faithfulness and mercy in continuing to show His covenantal steadfast love. Verses 22-23 are well-known in the Bible, but less known are the verses immediately prior (18-20): 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. Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.” If read in isolation, it seems the author of Lamentations had given up on hope based on a sort of remembrance, but a shift marks verse 21 when something else comes to mind. There seem to be two kinds of remembering: one that leads to hopelessness and another which leads to hope.
The Hopeless Remembering
Sorrows are real. The book of Lamentations stands as a reminder that while we have incredible capacity for experiencing joy in this life, we also bear incredible capacity for sorrow. In the experience of sorrow, what are we to do? Throughout all of chapter 3 (up till verse 21), the author continually remembers and rehearses his afflictions, and this rehearsal leads only to more hopelessness. Picture the author’s situation as a trial of sorts that he’s conducting in his mind. The afflictions the author was vividly experiencing were loud and vocal witnesses in this trial leading to a peace-less, joy-less existence. With each word, the author would find himself succumbing to a certain bleak narrative that would cause him to bow down not out of surrender to God but rather a surrender to despair. This is the first kind of remembering that leads to hopelessness.
The Hopeful Recalling
The word “but” marks an interruption to the prior depression caused by a mulling over of his sorrows. Instead of staying in this dark place, the author does something interesting: He calls a new witness to the stand (this he “calls to mind”). In contrast to the last witnesses, this new witness focuses on a different part of the story and leads to a vastly different state. Where everything prior said, “You’re a fool to hold on to hope in light of your situation,” here the new witness says, “Be full of hope because of who God is…” It’s not a minimizing of the pain experienced, but rather a re-directing of our attention to God Himself and who He is. Though the pain seems steadfast, greater still is God’s steadfast love, unceasing and relentless. Though sorrows seem to multiply, God’s mercies never come to an end. Though we know the dark of night like the back of our hand, His light is coming. His mercies are new every morning.
How do we know He’s faithful? Look to One who experienced sorrow as did the author of Lamentations, but He did nothing to deserve it. Jerusalem’s sorrow came from disobedience to God’s covenant, while Jesus’ sorrow came about from an obedience to the Father! He suffered in our place for the sins we deserved to suffer for! Join us in the rehearsing not of all the reasons we have to be hopeless, but rather call to mind the merciful gift of a crucified and risen Savior who fills us with hope in the midst of our sorrows and troubles. Though our sorrow be great, greater still is His faithfulness.
Song by Zach Winters.
Artwork by Amy Fuller.