Read Lamentations 4:1-22
Elie Wiesel, a Jewish teenager, lost his faith in God during an imprisonment at a Nazi concentration camp. Along with thousands of other prisoners, he was forced to watch members of Hitler’s Secret Service lead two men and a child to the gallows for hanging. Once the sentence was carried out, the prisoners were required to march past the execution site.
Weisel describes how he felt in these powerful words: “The two adults were no longer alive…. But the third rope was still moving; being so light, the child was still alive… For more than half an hour he stayed there, struggling between life and death, dying in slow agony under our eyes. And we had to look him full in the face. He was still alive when I passed in front of him. His tongue was still red, his eyes were not yet glazed.
Behind me, I heard a man asking: ‘Where is God now?’ And I heard a voice within me answer: ‘Where is He? Here He is-He is hanging here on this gallows….’”
Not all survivors of the Holocaust responded as Weisel. Many found hope and deeper meaning in life because of their strong religious convictions. Some even discovered the presence of God as He met their needs in supernatural ways, purified their character and judged their captors.
So how should we view those times when our lives are turned upside down? Where do we find strength to persevere? Jeremiah’s experience gives us some insight.
The fourth chapter of Lamentations reminds us that it is “a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). God allowed the Jews of Jeremiah’s day to experience almost unspeakable pain to demonstrate the awful effects of sin.
The precious wealth of Jerusalem was tarnished and scattered along the streets like litter (vv.1-2). The rich and important were stripped of their wealth and dignity (v. 5). City leaders wandered the streets, barely recognizable because their bodies were racked by hunger (vv. 8-9). Jewish mothers had even begun to kill, boil, and eat their own children (v. 10).
There are valuable lessons to be learned in times of great tragedy. When catastrophe comes, we usually experience feelings of fear, insecurity, and loneliness. In those moments, we can lean on these two important lessons:
- Sudden devastation is often the beginning of a process of reconstruction. The Lord does not build on an impure foundation. He will destroy what He cannot purify.
- Behind the pain of human calamity is the faithful presence of God. The Lord may seem distant, perhaps even uncaring, when the bottom drops out of life. But if we belong to Him through faith in Christ, we will never be abandoned. He said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you“ (Hebrews 13:5b).
Whatever you encounter today, if you are in Christ, you can be sure that nothing will separate you from His infinite love. The Apostle Paul wrote: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).