I honestly do not know that I’ve ever truly read Lamentations 3.
Oh, I know that I have, in my never-ending and often failed quest to read the Bible through each year. And I’ve skimmed over it from time to time, when I’ve been in a rush to get to a verse contained in Chapter 3 that I have clung to many, many times over the past several years.
But until this past week, I do not know–or, rather, do not remember–ever reading this chapter and letting the very words and images sink deeply into my soul.
It is the brutal and incredibly raw picture, of Job-like suffering. The words are so personal, so achingly honest, that for a moment in reading, I almost felt as if I should not continue. The pain is so deep and so real, that you almost lament–grieve–alongside the author.
Or, maybe not “almost”.
Maybe you do grieve.
Maybe that’s the intent.
Because maybe–like so many of the Psalms–these laments give voice to some of our deepest aches–the tender sore places in our souls that can’t be seen but that never truly seem to go away—the darkness that descends without reason. The events that change our worlds in the matter of seconds and plunge us into despair. The things that awaken us at night, and keep us from sleep. The evil we read about in the news–or that we fall victim to ourselves. Or maybe just the weight this world carries.
But also maybe this lament–and other laments–are divinely included in scripture because they point us to the only sure foundation, upon which our hope is built.
Which is the very reason I was driven to this chapter in Lamentations earlier this week. My soul was “bereft of peace” (vs. 17). “My endurance had perished.” (vs. 18). The darkness—an old familiar friend and enemy had returned. (vs.6). The reasons and whys are not important. What is important, is the intense need to take myself in hand and remind my soul–to preach to myself–the settling truth that I knew I would find there:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
Great is His faithfulness.
His mercies are new—every morning.
Truly, there is tremendous settling in that.
And, in reading the rest of Lamentations 3–I mean, truly reading it–just all the more emphasized the truth of His faithfulness.
I’m not sure why, really. On first instinct in reading such harrowing accounts of suffering such as these words here–or the words of Job–or the words of Habakkuk in Chapter 3–the tendency is (well, my tendency is) to not only grieve, but to grow cynical. Fearful. Doubtful even.
But with Job, with Habakkuk, and with the author of this lament here in Lamentations–over and over and over again, actually, throughout scripture–where we wind up is here: Great is thy Faithfulness.
And, when we read these words from these authors who knew such deep and tremendous grief and suffering–instead of reading such declarations of the hope found in His faithfulness and sovereignty as weakness–these proclamations are words of ring forth as signs of strength and fortitude.
And, they infuse strength in us, to also place our hope, in the only one who is worthy of that hope.
The only one who is our strength, when our endurance as perished.
Praying through this entire chapter the other day–not just verses 22-24–also led me to search out the lyrics to the hymn “Great is thy Faithfulness”. And in those moments, I found myself typing out the words of that hymn, along with key phrases found in Lamentations 3—
“You have redeemed my life.”
“You said, ‘Do not fear!'”
“You heard my plea…”
“You have seen the wrong done to me, O Lord.”
“Though you cause grief, you will have cmpassion…”
“Great is thy faithfulness.”
In Him alone is pardon for sin, and peace that endureth.
In Him alone, is strength for today, and hope for tomorrow.
And only by His grace, are there new mercies morning after morning after morning.
He changes not, His compassions–they fail not.
Great is His Faithfulness.
He is my portion, says my soul, therefore, I will hope in Him.