“The sufferings of Jeremiah” etching by Marc Chagall, 1939.
Lamentations 3 (CEV)
Unlike in Job and many of the Psalms, God says nothing to the writer of Lamentations. What should we make of his silence?
One commentator, Kathleen O’Connor, calls God’s silence “inspired.” This resonates on three levels. First, God allows the suffering people to have their full say. He listens, without interrupting to comfort or correct. Second, the Prophets had already explained that this would happen and why. And third, although God does not speak as a character in the book, he speaks by including it in his Word, within the canon of Scripture.
–Christopher J. H. White
There Is Still Hope
The Prophet Speaks:
“Jeremiah’s personal lament is a reminder that suffering is always personal. When nations go through times of tragedy and tribulation, the greatest suffering always takes place at the individual level.”
–Philip Graham Ryken
1I have suffered much because God was angry.
2He chased me into a dark place, where no light could enter.
“This seems to be the hardest part of our lot, that God should lead us into darkness: ‘He hath led me, and brought me into darkness.’ Yet dear brethren, that is, on the other hand, the sweetest thing about our trial; because, if the darkness be in the place where God has led us, it is best for us to be in the dark.”
–Charles Haddon Spurgeon
3I am the only one he punishes over and over again,
without ever stopping.
4God caused my skin and flesh to waste away,
and he crushed my bones.
5He attacked and surrounded me with hardships and trouble;
6he forced me to sit in the dark like someone long dead.
7God built a fence around me that I cannot climb over,
Job 19:8 (KJV)
He hath fenced up my way that I cannot pass, and he hath set darkness in my paths.
and he chained me down.
8Even when I shouted and prayed for help,
he refused to listen.
9God put big rocks in my way
and made me follow a crooked path.
10God was like a bear or a lion waiting in ambush for me;
11he dragged me from the road, then tore me to shreds.
12God took careful aim and shot his arrows
13straight through my heart.
Job 6:4 (NLT)
For the Almighty has struck me down with his arrows.
Their poison infects my spirit.
God’s terrors are lined up against me.
14I am a joke to everyone–
no one ever stops making fun of me.
15God has turned my life sour.
16He made me eat gravel and rubbed me in the dirt.
“It could be argued that eating gravel refers to the type of bread made from the sweepings of the granary floor that Jeremiah must have received toward the end of the siege.”
–H. L. Ellison
17I cannot find peace or remember happiness.
18I tell myself, “I am finished!
I can’t count on the LORD to do anything for me.”
19Just thinking of my troubles and my lonely wandering
makes me miserable.
20That’s all I ever think about, and I am depressed.
21Then I remember something
that fills me with hope.
“Everything that is done in the world is done by hope.”
22The LORD’s kindness never fails!
If he had not been merciful,
we would have been destroyed.
23The LORD can always be trusted
to show mercy each morning.
“In a magnificent expression of faith in the unfailing mercies of God, the writer looks to the distant future with renewed hope.”
24Deep in my heart I say,
“The LORD is all I need; I can depend on him!”
25The LORD is kind to everyone who trusts and obeys him.
26It is good to wait patiently for the LORD to save us.
“Do not be in a hurry; do not expect to be delivered out of your trouble the first time you begin to cry unto God. Oh, no: ‘the Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.’
–Charles Haddon Spurgeon
“There are times when the only thing a sufferer can do is wait for God. But waiting is good because God is worth waiting for.”
–Philip Graham Ryken
27When we are young, it is good to struggle hard
28and to sit silently alone,
if this is what the LORD intends.
29Being rubbed in the dirt can teach us a lesson;
30we can also learn from insults and hard knocks.
31The Lord won’t always reject us!
32He causes a lot of suffering,
but he also has pity because of his great love.
In his classic treatment of suffering, The Problem of Pain, C. S. Lewis wrote:
God whispers to us in our pleasures,
speaks in our conscience,
but shouts in our pain:
it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.
Lewis argues that not only is it possible to find God when life is hard, but also it is in some sense easier than when life is good.
33The Lord doesn’t enjoy sending grief or pain.
34Don’t trample prisoners under your feet
35or cheat anyone out of what is rightfully theirs.
God Most High sees everything,
36and he knows when you refuse
to give someone a fair trial.
37No one can do anything
without the Lord’s approval.
38Good and bad each happen
at the command of God Most High.
Psalm 33:11 (NLT)
But the Lord’s plans stand firm forever;
his intentions can never be shaken.
39We’re still alive!
We shouldn’t complain
when we are being punished for our sins.
40Instead, we should think
about the way we are living,
and turn back to the LORD.
41When we lift our hands
in prayer to God in heaven,
we should offer him our hearts
and say, 42“We’ve sinned!
We’ve rebelled against you,
and you haven’t forgiven us!
43Anger is written all over you,
as you pursue and slaughter us
without showing pity.
44You are behind a wall of clouds
that blocks out our prayers.
from My Utmost for His Highest,
by Oswald Chambers
GOD’S SILENCE — THEN WHAT?
When He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was —John 11:6
Has God trusted you with His silence — a silence that has great meaning? God’s silences are actually His answers. Just think of those days of absolute silence in the home at Bethany! Is there anything comparable to those days in your life? Can God trust you like that, or are you still asking Him for a visible answer? God will give you the very blessings you ask if you refuse to go any further without them, but His silence is the sign that He is bringing you into an even more wonderful understanding of Himself. Are you mourning before God because you have not had an audible response? When you cannot hear God, you will find that He has trusted you in the most intimate way possible— with absolute silence, not a silence of despair, but one of pleasure, because He saw that you could withstand an even bigger revelation. If God has given you a silence, then praise Him— He is bringing you into the mainstream of His purposes. The actual evidence of the answer in time is simply a matter of God’s sovereignty. Time is nothing to God. For a while you may have said, “I asked God to give me bread, but He gave me a stone instead” (see Matthew 7:9). He did not give you a stone, and today you find that He gave you the “bread of life” (John 6:35).
A wonderful thing about God’s silence is that His stillness is contagious— it gets into you, causing you to become perfectly confident so that you can honestly say, “I know that God has heard me.” His silence is the very proof that He has. As long as you have the idea that God will always bless you in answer to prayer, He will do it, but He will never give you the grace of His silence. If Jesus Christ is bringing you into the understanding that prayer is for the glorifying of His Father, then He will give you the first sign of His intimacy— silence.
45You allowed nations
to treat us like garbage;
46our enemies curse us.
47We are terrified and trapped,
caught and crushed.”
48My people are destroyed!
Tears flood my eyes,
49and they won’t stop
50until the LORD looks down from heaven and helps.
51I am horrified when I see what enemies have done
to the young women of our city.
52No one had reason to hate me,
but I was hunted down like a bird.
53Then they tried to kill me
by tossing me into a pit and throwing stones at me.
54Water covered my head–
I thought I was gone.
55From the bottom of the pit, I prayed to you, LORD.
56I begged you to listen.
“Help!” I shouted. “Save me!”
You answered my prayer
57and came when I was in need.
You told me, “Don’t worry!”
58You rescued me and saved my life.
Jonah 2:5-7 (NLT)
“I sank beneath the waves,
and the waters closed over me.
Seaweed wrapped itself around my head.
I sank down to the very roots of the mountains.
I was imprisoned in the earth,
whose gates lock shut forever.
But you, O Lord my God,
snatched me from the jaws of death!
As my life was slipping away,
I remembered the Lord.
And my earnest prayer went out to you
in your holy Temple.”
59You saw them abuse me, LORD,
so make things right.
60You know every plot they have made against me.
61Yes, you know their insults and their evil plans.
62All day long they attack with words and whispers.
63No matter what they are doing, they keep on mocking me.
64Pay them back for everything they have done, LORD!
65Put your curse on them and make them suffer.
66Get angry and go after them
until not a trace is left under the heavens.
Lamentations 3:22-23 (NIV)
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.
HERE is Fernando Ortega singing a lovely, and uncommon, version of the hymn “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.”
Contemporary English Version (CEV) Copyright © 1995 by American Bible Society
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