September 10 – Lament – God’s Infinite Compassion

Read Lamentations 3:1-32

Years ago, I served as pastor of a small church in southwestern Michigan for 2 ½ years while I was in seminary.  Every weekend, my wife and I drove about 75 miles with a close friend, even through the “snow belt“ of South Bend during the winter, to provide leadership for the struggling work.

Every Sunday, my buddy and I took turns planning the service, preaching, leading the music, and providing direction for the church. We often used a few verses of Scripture, frequently from the Psalms, as words of encouragement, a “Call to Worship,”  to begin a Sunday morning service.

One weekend, we chose the great words of Lamentations 3 as our focus for the day: “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” (Lamentations 3:22-23 – NIV). We planned to follow those words by singing, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.”  At least that was the plan.  Or so I thought.

When the time came to read the verses, my friend could only remember they were located in chapter 3. So he opened his Bible and started at the beginning of the chapter: “I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of the Lord’s wrath. He has driven me away and made me walk in darkness rather than light; indeed, he has turned his hand against me again and again, all day long. He has made my skin and my flesh grow old and has broken my bones…” (Lamentations 3:1-4 – NIV).

The tone got darker and more depressing the longer he read. Exasperated, he finally stopped, walked across the platform, sat down by me and said, “Sheesh!“

I couldn’t stop laughing! We meant for the service to begin with an upbeat, vivid reminder of the mercies and faithfulness of God, but instead it turned gloomy and never did recover.

I’ve thought about that moment many times since then… and retold the story more times than I can count.  It has occurred to me, however, that our experience mimics what so many of us encounter in life.

As Christians who believe in a good and sovereign God, it’s easy to expect that life will be free of heartache and pain. Nothing could be further from the truth. The book of Lamentations reminds us that, at times, we will feel abandoned, oppressed, humiliated, and alone.

In stark contrast to those times of darkness, Jeremiah reminds us of three great truths about the nature of God in this section:

  1. God’s love never ends (v. 21a). Despite the discipline He brought because of their rebellion, God was sticking by the covenant people He had chosen.
  2. God’s concern never fails (v. 22b). In fact, the night may seem lonely and bleak, but the dawn of a new day is a reminder that God still cares for His people.
  3. God‘s faithfulness never diminishes (v. 23b). Regardless of how inconsistent, even disobedient, believers may be, the Lord “remains faithful; for he cannot deny himself“ (2 Timothy 2:13).

No wonder Jeremiah finally proclaims, “‘The Lord is my portion’, says my soul, “‘Therefore, I have hope in him’” (v.24)  So can you!  No matter how dark the night may seem, His faithfulness will never fail.

Bob Fetterhoff

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