Friday, May 8, 2015

sustaining hope

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
Lamentations 3:22-24

Written through an experience of unimagineable loss and pain, Jeremiah's poetic Lamentations at the fall of Judah and destruction of Jerusalem are more than just sad, emotional processing of the plight of the plundered, captive nation. Lamentations contains spiritual insight into the personal response of the righteous person to suffering. As such, it should be understood as a resource for caring for souls in crisis.

First, some clarifying caveats are in order. Jeremiah's thoughts must be understood within their covenantal context. The extreme sufferings that the book details were a curse upon the children of Israel for generations of flagrant disobedience to the covenant of the Law. God warned them it was coming. And Jeremiah's laments process the suffering with this understanding: we know we deserve this. One should thus be careful to weigh the descriptions of suffering in keeping with this understanding. I tend to find the extreme suffering and raw grief the hardest parts of the book to think about... until I place it in context. Then it makes sense as a unique experience for covenantal compliance.

However, the real high points of Lamentations come with the insights into the character and love of God... something you'd think would not be part of a book like this! God shows up even in the suffering. And His goodness is trusted by faith, even as the harsh pain of His judgment is acknowledged. His faithful love and unceasing mercy comes to the repentant heart. He knows the cries of sufferers. He loves them... even those who grieve in their painful loss. God brings new hope in the extreme pain. He is faithful. The soul that believes this by faith can then choose hope as God is the soul's sustaining possession. Faith is all that they have left, and it is a vast resource for all that they need to go on.

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