The chapters of Lamentations thus far have followed the acrostic pattern where each verse begins with the next letter in the Hebrew alphabet. Chapter three of this book gives three verses per letter, resulting in 66 verses instead of 22.
It begins with the laments from a perspective of a man who feels utterly cast out and forgotten by God, left to waste away dwelling in darkness. “He has made my flesh and my skin waste away; he has broken my bones,” (v.4). The first third of this chapter continues as such, trying to express the utter chaos and loss and pain around him as the Lord brings judgement on the sin and wickedness in Jerusalem.
The middle third changes tone and remembers the faithfulness of the Lord, saying “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.”” (v.22-24). The chapter closes it’s last third with more complaint, but with declarations of hope in God’s promise interwoven.
Horatio G. Spafford was well acquainted with sorrow. He had five children with his wife, Anna, the youngest of whom died of pneumonia in 1871. In the same year, their business burnt down in the Great Chicago Fire. In 1873, his wife and four remaining children were crossing the Atlantic along with 313 other passengers on their way to France when the ship collided with another vessel. It slipped into the frigid ocean water carrying 226 of its passengers with it, including all four of the Spafford’s children. Anna was pulled from some floating wreckage and taken to Wales where she telegrammed her husband “saved alone, what shall I do?”
Horatio booked the next ship out to Wales to be with his grieving wife. The captain of the ship called Horatio to his cabin and said they were over the place where his children had gone down. It was on this journey that Spafford wrote the famous hymn “It Is Well With My Soul.”
The flower is most lovely in a desolate place, the candle most comforting in darkest night, and worship most powerful from a grieving heart.
There is something profound in verses 22-24 of this chapter (quoted above), the more so for its surroundings. There is an acknowledgement of God’s profound goodness here even while the author is bearing His wrath and seeing His judgement at hand. He sees that, even while living through such a terrible and awesome thing as the judgement of the Lord for the sins of His people, He is being true to His word, which comforts the author.
For if He did not keep His word to judge the transgressor, who is to say that He would keep His word to never abandon His people? If God were able to betray His own character and commandments concerning justice, who is to say He would not also walk back His other promises? Therefore the author is comforted, even by the justice of the Lord. It is in here that the author draws strength, confidently remembering the goodness of his God, saying “For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though He causes grief, He will have compassion according to the abundance of His steadfast love; for He does not afflict from His heart or grieve the children of men,” (v.31-33). This chapter provides some very real hope in a book named, and rightly so, Lamentations.
Trusting the Lord is easy when there is nothing particularly significant happening in our lives – no huge change, stress, accident, or tragedy. It is here that we are most likely to ask that Jesus give us the wheel and maybe take a snooze in the back seat until, sure enough, we hit a rough patch and realize our utter lack of control. To put it parabolically, when the skies are clear and storms far off, we tend to abandon the hard work of building our homes on the Solid Rock and move into that shack on the beach where things are easier and more relaxing. But the storms always come.
Trust in Jesus is an action, but it is also a way of life. It involves getting to know Him personally and deeply, to make Him our first reaction when we’re up against the things of this world whether big or small. The author(s) in Lamentations did not forgo telling their woes and complaints to the Lord and neither should we, but like the author of chapter three we must learn to stand on the bedrock of the promises of God. We must learn to anchor ourselves in the Word of God so firmly that though we are tossed side to side, we never actually move. We must make scripture and prayer our top priorities, to hear from and speak to God that we may truly know Him. It is from this place that we can truly say “it is well with my soul.”
What are your actions and practical steps to get to know God? How do you spend your time in Scripture? Do you have a time of prayer set aside?
Thank you, Father God, for your unchanging goodness and mercy. Thank you for holding fast to each soul you have called to you, and for guiding and teaching us in your word. I pray that as we continue to go through your word this year, you might bring us further into relationship with you and cast off those things that hold us in complacency. Give us strength and courage to trust you and follow you wherever you lead. Amen!
Song: It Is Well - Shane & Shane
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.