“The LORD has done what He purposed; He has accomplished His word which He commanded from days of old. He has thrown down without sparing, and He has caused the enemy to rejoice over you;…Let your tears run down like a river day and night; give yourself no relief; let your eyes have no rest. Arise, cry aloud in the night at the beginning of the night watches; pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord; lift up your hands to Him for the life of your little ones who are faint because of hunger at the head of every street.” ~ Lamentations 2:17a, 18b-19
Judah had been warned. The people did not repent, or return to God. Judgment had befallen them. A long and terrible siege, with unbearable famine and unspeakable choices. The cruelty of the Babylonian army. Captivity. Devastation. And a heartbroken prophet.
Jeremiah wrote the book of Lamentations, pouring out the sorrow in his heart for his people. Oh, he spoke of his own pain and feelings, but he also wept for his fellow man.
Do we weep for one another? Or are we so caught up in our own feelings, valid though they may be, that we cannot spare a thought for others? Do we “lift up our hands to Him” for the little ones of this world “who are faint because of hunger”?
Our family is in a wilderness place right now, waiting for God to lead us through, and (hopefully!) out. While we are waiting, God has been quiet, and it has been easy for feelings of despair to move in and swamp us.
I think perhaps Jeremiah understood this. He lived through the unspeakable horrors of the fall of Jerusalem and was then abducted by some of his own and taken down to Egypt. Lamentations 3 begins with a lament for himself.
“I am the man who has seen affliction because of the rod of His wrath. He has driven me and made me walk in darkness and not in light. Surely against me He has turned His hand repeatedly all the day… Even when I cry out and call for help, He shuts out my prayer. He has blocked my ways with hewn stone; He has made my paths crooked… I have become a laughingstock to all my people, their mocking song all the day. He has filled me with bitterness, He has made me drunk with wormwood… And my soul has been rejected from peace; I have forgotten happiness. So I say, ‘My strength has perished, and so has my hope from the LORD.’ ” ~ Lamentations 3:1-3, 8-9, 14-15, 17-18
Jeremiah knew God’s word, His promises, and His truth. He knew in his heart that God would not shut out his cries for help or reject his soul from peace. But sometimes we just don’t feel God’s word, His promises, and His truth in the circumstances of our lives. Does that mean God’s word is false, that His promises aren’t kept, that He isn’t true? NO. It means that we are being swamped by our circumstances and allowing our feelings to separate us from God and His word, promises, and truth.
The next verses in Lamentations 3 are very familiar, and oh-so-encouraging and beloved! Jeremiah put aside his feelings and remembered.
“Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness. Surely my soul remembers and is bowed down within me. This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The LORD’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness. ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I have hope in Him.’ The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of the LORD.” ~ Lamentations 3:19-26
“It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of the LORD.” Wait silently. Listen. Remember. Our hope is in God. And weep for those around us. They are hurting, too, and need to know that their hope is in God!