"I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this." Lamentations 3:20-21 (NLT)
Reading the first twenty verses of Lamentations 3 is harder for me than the first two chapters. Chapter three is so personal. Notice the pronouns I and he, used for the LORD and Jeremiah in these verses. Jeremiah explicitly describes his experience, his emotions, and his loss as the LORD's doing. All that being true, how and why can he say, "Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this."?
Before we examine the reason for his hope, it will be helpful to look briefly at Jeremiah's life and understand how he wrote Lamentations.
Jeremiah began his ministry at a unique time in the history of Israel. When God called him to be a prophet, Josiah was king. God prophesied the coming of Josiah soon after dividing the kingdom between Rehoboam and Jeroboam. When Jeroboam led the northern ten tribes into apostasy, God told of a future king who would destroy the false altars of Israel (1 Kings 13:2-3). Josiah did what God promised and led Judah back to the LORD (2 Kings 22). God described Josiah as a man who, "did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and walked in all the ways of David his father." Jeremiah wrote the lament sung at Josiah's funeral.
After Josiah's death, Jeremiah fell out of favor because of his constant declaration of the coming destruction. Jeremiah suffered much during this period. As evidence of the impending destruction, the LORD forbade Jeremiah to marry, mourn or participate in a feast. He was imprisoned for treason, thrown in a cistern and left to die, and he was beaten and put in stocks. His enemies were always plotting how to destroy him, and his family turned against him. As vividly explained in Lamentations 3:1-22, God brought Jeremiah through many afflictions. Therefore, he was the perfect man to tell the remaining afflicted Israelites why and how they should hope in the LORD.
Jeremiah wrote Lamentations as five separate poems (chapters) with each poem consisting of 22 stanzas; one for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Chapters one, two, and four have one verse beginning with each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Chapter three has three verses per letter. Chapter 5 also has 22 stanza's but does not follow the alphabet. Psalm 119 is written similarly with the stanza for each letter having eight verses. We would describe this as the author covering his subject from A to Z.
Notice half way through this lengthy lament, Jeremiah calls the reader's attention to his hope. From Lamentations 3:21-33, he proclaims why he trusts and hopes in the LORD. Verse thirty-three, "For he does not enjoy hurting people or causing them sorrow" is exactly half way through his five poems of lament.
I suggest you re-read Lamentations 3:21-33 with an eye to see the reasons for hope in the midst of grief. The One who is our portion is steadfast in love, mercy, compassion, and salvation. As a loving Father, He disciplines His children to bring them back to Himself through repentance.
Just as Jeremiah was the perfect person to teach the Israelites how to wait, trust and hope in the LORD, God will use you and your trials for the benefit of His children. In 2 Corinthians 1:3-7, Paul describes the Lord as "the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we will be able to comfort those who are in affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." Just as we experience God's comfort in difficult times, He places us in the lives of His children to comfort them.
Father God, we know trials, tribulation, and affliction are a part of following Jesus. Thank You for men like Jeremiah and Paul who suffered so much more than we have, yet, they faithfully proclaimed an unshaken hope in You. Holy Spirit, please take the difficult times in our lives and use them for the Father's glory and His children's comfort.