he has trampled me in the dust.
I have been deprived of peace;
I have forgotten what prosperity is.
So I say, ‘My splendor is gone
and all that I had hoped from the Lord.’
I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.” – Lamentations 3:16-20
The book of Lamentations is the prophet Jeremiah’s lament–an expression of mourning and grief–over the fall of Jerusalem. Through Jeremiah, the Lord prophesied the destruction that was to come upon Judah and Jerusalem because they had turned away from God. Jeremiah saw what was coming because of the sin of the people and then lived to experience the consequences.
Though Jeremiah was faithful to the Lord, most of the people around him were not. He was often opposed in his ministry by the very people he was trying to warn about the future and turn back to God. Despite the abuses he suffered–attempts on his life (Jeremiah 11, 26) and physical abuse (Jeremiah 20)–and the wickedness he saw around him, he was still greatly sorrowed by Judah’s destruction. His grief and the Spirit of the Lord prompted him to write the book of Lamentations.
In the middle of his lamenting and grieving, there is a beautiful statement of hope.
“Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.” – Lamentations 3:21-24
In the same way that these verses of hope are surrounded by lament, Jeremiah is surrounded by destruction, but still has hope. Though his lament is not finished and he continues to mourn for the rest of the book, hope is still present in the midst of it. Jeremiah’s hope and sorrow are mingled together like a beautiful tapestry, giving full vent to the terrible things that have happened while at the same time acknowledging the true and solid hope that is to be found in the Lord at all times.
How are we able to have hope in the midst of lament?
Paul writes in Romans that one of the keys to having this hope is by reading the scriptures.
“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.” – Romans 15:4
This is not a hope we muster up on our own or convince ourselves to believe. It is a hope that we find woven through the pages and stories of scripture, rooted in the character of God, and assured to us through Christ. As we spend time in the Word hearing from the Lord we read story after story of the His faithfulness and redemption. We see His hand at work throughout history working miracles and bringing beauty out of pain. We see His plan of salvation playing out over the centuries contained in the story of the Bible culminating in His son Jesus, in whom we have ultimate hope.
Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians is one we should pray for ourselves and others.
“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” – Ephesians 1:17-21
Ask the Lord to “give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” Pray that “the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you” and that you would grasp the “riches of his glorious inheritance” and His “incomparably great power for us who believe.” That same power that raised Christ from the dead.
Read the Word so that you will have the hope found “through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide”.
In doing these things, just as Jeremiah still had hope in the midst of lamenting the destruction of his homeland, we too can have hope through every trial and tribulation. In fact, our hope is so great that it makes our earthly troubles seem “light and momentary” in comparison (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).