Lamentations 3:21-23 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.
As the prophet considered the terrible things that happened, he realized that he and a few others were still alive. He attributed this to the love, compassion and faithfulness of God. Without a doubt, this is one of the finest statements of faith in the Bible. It is easy to praise God when things are at their best, but praising God when things are at their worst is a mark of genuine faith.
And things were truly at their worst. The city was in ruins, many had died, others were in exile, and the prophet himself was now an old man. But Jeremiah still had God, so his future was bright. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Psalm 73:25-26), wrote Asaph. The future is always bright for those who trust in God.
Lamentations 3:32 Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love.
It is impossible to know the comfort of God’s compassion apart from real hardship. Through cold we learn the value of warmth. Through sickness we learn the value of health. And trough suffering we learn the value of compassion. He is the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God (2 Corinthians 1:3-4), wrote Paul.
A godly mom and dad raised their children through years of financial distress. They were so poor, in fact, that they feared their children might lose faith, because God did not seem to provide. But their children grew up to love the Lord, and one began a ministry to the poor. When all we had was God, God made all the difference, he said. God is compassionate to those who suffer, and through suffering, we learn to be compassionate.
Lamentations 3:38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?
The disaster that overtook God’s people was so extreme, they may have wondered how God could allow it. If God is good, how could he allow the Babylonians to inflict such misery on his chosen people? The problem is theological, but can also be highly personal, when suffering comes to us.
Some people try to resolve the problem by thinking everything good comes from from God, and everything bad comes from Satan. But that line of thought is not in the Bible. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble? (Job 2:10), asked Job. When disaster comes to a city, has not the Lord caused it? (Amos 3:6), asked Amos. I bring prosperity and create disaster (Isaiah 45:7), said God.
The Christian solution to the problem of evil is that God allows terrible things to happen for a good reason. This is seen most clearly in crucifixion of Jesus Christ. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge (Acts 2:23), said Peter. And, They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen (Acts 4:28), said the church.
God used the greatest evil ever (the crucifixion of Christ) to bring about the greatest good ever (salvation for the world). God’s sovereignty over evil is a comfort to Christians because it means we are never in the hands of fate, chance or the devil. We are safe and secure in the hands of our heavenly Father.
The Christian heart, since it has been thoroughly persuaded that all things happen by God’s plan, and that nothing takes place by chance, will ever look to him as the principal causes of things, yet will give attention to the secondary causes in their proper place (John Calvin).
Lamentations 3:39 Why should the living complain when punished for their sins?
God’s people had lost everything, and were completely miserable. Didn’t they have a right to complain? Actually, complaining is never right, since any punishment we receive is less than we deserve. The greatness of our sin is not only in the deed, but in the greatness of the one we have offended. There are no little sins, because there is no little God to sin against. The fact that we aren’t always punished immediately is a sign of God’s patience and grace.
The badness of our sin is also revealed in the biblical teaching of hell (Matthew 18:8). The punishment of eternal fire seems disproportionate to a lifetime of sin. But this only shows that sin is worse than we commonly think. Sin is treason against the Most High God to whom we owe everything, and hell is perfect justice.
But Christ has died for our sin, so instead of perfect justice, we can receive eternal life (John 3:16). Instead of the punishment that we deserve, we can receive the blessings that we don’t deserve. The better we understand the bad news, the more we will appreciate the good news.
Lamentations 3:40 Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.
In light of their devastation, Jeremiah called on God’s people to examine their ways. If they had followed God, things would have been different. This was an opportunity for them to change, so they could enjoy God’s favor once again. Search me, God, and know my heart. . . . See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24), wrote David.
David was so concerned about his relationship with God, that he not only examined himself, but asked God to examine him as well. We cannot avoid sin completely, but we can confess the sins we know of, and ask God to reveal the ones we may have overlooked. Through careful examination, we can stay close to God, and enjoy his favor.
Lamentations 5:21-22 Restore us to yourself, Lord, that we may return; renew our days as of old unless you have utterly rejected us and are angry with us beyond measure.
The book of Lamentations ends on an uncertain note. In light of their disaster, Jeremiah was concerned that God had rejected his people forever. Perhaps they had sinned to the point of no return. Thankfully, this was not the case. About seventy years later, God allowed his people to return from exile, and rebuild the city of Jerusalem.
Sin is more serious than we think, and the consequences can be extreme. But those who turn to the Lord should be assured of his mercy. [W]hoever comes to me I will never drive away (John 6:37), said Jesus.
Reflection and Review
How has suffering made you more compassionate?
Why does God allow terrible things to happen?
Why shouldn’t we complain about our suffering?