One of the forms of Hebrew poetry found in the Psalms is lament. A lament is a complaint where the Psalmist pours out his case to God about the treatment being experienced with the request that God intervene and bring the painful situation to an end. There is an entire book in the Bible called Lamentations where Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, pours out his heart to God as he watched the Babylonian Captivity unfold upon Judah with all its horror and destruction.
In chapter 3, Jeremiah pours out his feelings about God’s treatment of him personally during this horrifying time. He was confused, vv. 2-3, miserable, v. 4, in tribulation, v. 5, trapped, vv. 6-7, without answers, v. 8, feeling pursued by God, v. 10, torn up, v. 11, persecuted, v. 12, humiliated, v. 14, without peace or happiness, v. 17, and unable to hold on, v. 18.
Jeremiah sounds like someone who is about ready to abandon his faith in God. He sounds like the woman who once lamented to me, I’ve been a good girl all my life; where has it gotten me. That lament became the beginning of a departure from God that led to a hardened heart. Several years later her sister-in-law said to me that she had become a hardened woman.
This is where laments from people of faith take a different turn. The lamenter is honest about what is being felt, but rather than turning from God in resentment and disbelief, the lamenter turns to God in trust and submission. Jeremiah does this starting in v. 21. Many lessons can be learned from Jeremiah at this point about how to respond in lamenting situations.
The Lord is still good, v. 25. After everything poured out (in paragraph two above), Jeremiah still says, The Lord is good. In fact, vv. 25, 26, 27 all begin with the word good. This is so very important to believe, but also to affirm. For believers, even on the darkest days there are still blessings to count, and those blessings come from the hand of a good God who is still working.
We must wait for the Lord’s timing, vv. 25-26. God told Jeremiah the nation Judah would suffer captivity for 70 years, Jeremiah 25:11. That is a long time to wait. Jeremiah would be dead before Judah’s fortunes would be restored. Yet Jeremiah said, It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. God works in His timing, not ours. Some lessons require lots of time before they are fully internalized. We must learn to quietly wait.
Let the affliction humble us, vv. 28-30. Speaking about the yoke of affliction Jeremiah wrote, Let him sit alone in silence when [the yoke] is laid on him; let him put his mouth in the dust—there may yet be hope; let him give his cheek to the one who strikes, and let him be filled with insults. When we are forced to eat dust, essentially says Jeremiah, eat it. When we must grovel in the dust, don’t reject it, but accept the slap in the face the Lord is letting us have. The reason God permits affliction is to break our pride. Only when pride is broken can we learn. So instead of resisting it, be humbled by it.
Instead of complaining, test and examine our ways, vv. 39-42. Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord! There is the difference. The person of faith learns and grows turning back to God rather than away. When that happens, affliction has succeeded.
Your friend, learning from the weeping prophet, Pastor Brian (:-}).