Lamentations 3 is most known for speaking of God’s compassion, renewing mercies and great faithfulness, but these three verses are much more profound in context. It’s the rest of the chapter that continually causes me to return.
It’s a chapter about a deep, deep dark.
The beginning of the chapter offers God as the causer of darkness, of pain. A God who refuses to act, to answer, to even hear.
“He took me by the hand and walked me into pitch-black darkness…He locked me up in deep darkness, like a corpse nailed inside a coffin…I gave up on life altogether. I’ve forgotten what the good life is like. I said to myself, ‘This is it. I’m finished. God is a lost cause.'” Lamentations 3:2, 6, 17-18 MSG
It’s a raw beginning, baffling quite frankly, but oddly comforting. In the honest words of the Bible, in the dark, dirty drudgery of Biblical character’s lives, there’s hope in a shared experience. Hope that if we utter our darkest disappointments, angers, fears we’re not alone. Even if these things are directed at God himself.
Right before the notoriously hopeful verses of this chapter, the writer says this:
“I’ll never forget the…feeling of hitting the bottom. But there’s one other thing I remember, and remembering I keep a grip on hope:”
“God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over). He’s all I’ve got left.” MSG
The images my mind conjures of hope are all flowers and sunshine, serenity and pompoms – all things my heart is often not. At times, this has left me feeling hopeless about hope, feeling like I don’t have the inclination for it, and even some days, the stomach for it.
But these verses offer a different picture and an accuracy of my own life.
This is a stubborn grip on a gritty hope.
God couldn’t have run out of love for me, of mercy for me, even when it feels like he’s not just allowing pain, but actually causing pain.
I’m sticking with God.
I read that line with a grit that would tack on a cuss word to the end. It’s a stubbornness that keeps me from giving up, a stubbornness that keeps me from walking away. It’s an unrelenting hope that God is good, regardless of the state I’m in.
I’ve read the following verses at different seasons of my life, each season effecting where my mind chooses to rest. But in every season, I tear up, choke up, stop breathing when I read these words because they are the only kind of hope I’ve ever understood.
“It’s a good thing to quietly hope, quietly hope for help from God. It’s a good thing when you’re young to stick it out through the hard times. When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions: Wait for hope to appear. Don’t run from trouble. Take it full-face. The “worst” is never the worst. Why? Because the Master won’t ever walk out and fail to return. If he works severely, he also works tenderly. His stockpiles of loyal love are immense. He takes no pleasure in making life hard, in throwing roadblocks in the way:…” Verses 26-33 MSG
A few parts of this are hard to swallow. Don’t ask questions? I have so many. Are you sure God isn’t enjoying throwing roadblocks in my way? I can hardly find the path.
But two things I love: A quiet hope. Enter the silence.
I don’t have to run to a mountaintop and scream that God’s mercies are new every morning, that his faithfulness is great. Even when my hope is quiet, determined, barely alive, it’s still hope.
When I enter the silence, I also rest in the dark. It’s surrendering my demands for sunshine, for bliss, for understanding. It’s surviving on just a glimmer. There are never the right words to say anyway. In a dooming dark, your gut is the only place to be trusted to speak truth.
It’s odd that a book about lamenting is most often quoted to offer a renewing hope. But when I’m passionate about my pain, when I sob in my sorrow, hope is found. Not in a way that dismisses my experiences and feelings, not in a rose-colored sun-tinted distortion, in a way that feels like gripping ’til my knuckles are white.
Lamenting is an exercise of hope.
There would be nothing left to lament if I didn’t still believe, if I didn’t still long, still yearn. It’s the lament that says I want this to be better; it should be better; I should be better; life should be better. And God says, “Yes. Hold on. Wait.”
And in the mean time, quietly hope while nestling into the silence.