Good morning! We have only a single chapter today, Lamentations 3, but it covers huge ground in terms of personal feelings toward God. I find myself disagreeing with some sentiments, agreeing whole-heartedly with others, and ultimately finding grace in the fact that one can express all these emotions in deep relation to God.
The writer here (“Jeremiah”) begins with deep lamentation for the suffering that has come “under the rod of God’s wrath”. Almost without exception, this chapter focuses on personal experiences of God’s action, though there are one or two references to sufferings in the broader community. The writer’s laments will evoke strong identification from anyone who has ever felt like the universe was against them. Here, “Jeremiah” puts the responsibility for everything bad happening on God, and feels under direct attack from God. By now you can probably guess my instinct in response: these are the writer’s honest feelings about how God acts, but I don’t believe that God has actually acted with the malice that many of these verses imply.
And yet, somehow, the author is also able to grasp a truth that does seem from God directly, writing that “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases” (3:23). The middle section of this chapter is where the hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness” came from. It shares a deep trust (even in the face of great sorrow) with the psalmist who says, “weeping may last for the night, but joy comes with morning light”. My faith contends that God does not cause grief in someone’s life, but when grief does occur as a consequence of human sin or living in an imperfect world, God is there with salve and aid to help us make it through stormy times. Our role is to let ourselves be opened to the possibility of God’s never-ending love, trusting that God “does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone” (3:33).
At the end of the chapter, Lamentations returns to the sense of affliction by God’s hand. We might be feeling a bit of emotional whiplash at this point. However, note that one thing doesn’t change through the chapter: direct address to God. A person might have multiple senses of the roles God plays in life—persecutor, comforter, advocate, and judge are just some of the roles expressed here. Grace consists in the face that no matter how one feels about God’s activity in life at any given moment, nothing expressed in the context of relationship will diminish God’s love—not even heartfelt challenges to the very idea of God’s love. The Holy One is able to take all of it, and keep loving us still. Happy reading!
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is Lamentations 4-5. Thanks for reading!