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Hope in the Lord (July 7, 2024)

Letarshia C. Robinson writes about lament and hope.

Lamentations 3:16-31; Psalm 30

Got hope? Hope is what we need and, well, hope for, but hope can be hard to locate in a world filled with despair and grief. We don’t need to be followers of Jesus to know, as Christ says, that in this life, we will have trouble (John 16:33). There will be sorrow and pain, mourning and grief. I may sound like the bearer of bad news, but if you have ever experienced bad news, you can understand how hopeless it feels!

As we read in Scripture, the Jewish people were dealt a crushing blow. Jerusalem, along with their Temple, was destroyed, and they were taken into captivity by the Babylonians. In Lamentations 3, the prophet Jeremiah, a voice crying out God’s message to God’s people, turns the peoples’ sorrow towards God during their captivity.

Examples of despair and grief can be found aplenty, but if we put our focus there, our joy will be stolen, and all hope will be lost. As today’s Scripture reminds us, we can find our hope in the Lord, our ultimate source of hope and joy.

Hope lost

In 2015, my long health battle ended with a hysterectomy, and my world shattered. I felt like my future had been stolen. How were my husband and I supposed to live if we were not able to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28)? Instead of God blessing me with children, I felt God had cursed me with barrenness. Why had God abandoned me? How could God allow my husband’s and my bloodline to just end with no hope of future generations? God was supposed to save me from this kind of trouble … but God didn’t.

For the Jewish people, Jerusalem was life. It was a place of civility and order; religious celebration and jubilee; divine protection and safety. It was the hope for the present and a promising hope for the future. This land was a gift from God and a beacon of hope to the whole world. God’s glory dwelled in the Temple. Then the mighty force of the Babylonians came and in 587-586 BCE, Jerusalem fell and with it, hope.

The Jewish people were taken into captivity. Gone were the celebrations. Gone was order. Gone was divine protection and safety. How could God allow this to happen? Jeremiah laments, “I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, ‘Gone is my glory and all that I had hoped for from the Lord’” (Lamentations 3:17-18). God was supposed to shield the Jewish people from their enemies … but God didn’t.

There’s little else like grief to cause the deconstruction of your theology. However, deconstruction can give way to the reconstruction of something beautiful.

Hope restored

It’s easy to blame God. The prophet directs his honest feelings toward God in our reading. God can handle our lament. An entire book of the Bible is aptly named, Lamentations! This book, along with psalms of lament, invites us to see that it is ok to cry out to God, even with ugly cries.

Here’s the thing though — when the despair was deep set in the heart of Jeremiah, he offers the people of God the gift of a conjunction: “But…”  Amid grief and pain, he makes a life-changing move. “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope” (v.21). He intentionally remembers, “the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning” (v.22, 23). The very remembrance of God’s faithful action gives him hope.

It can give us hope, too.

Friends, God can handle our grief. God can handle our pain. With ceaseless mercies that are new every morning, God will embrace us while we grieve. With steadfast love, God will embrace us while we suffer. With everlasting hope, God will restore and sustain us.

In Psalm 30, the psalmist reminds us that God turns “mourning into dancing” and replaces sackcloth with joy, “so that [our] soul[s] may praise [the Lord] and not be silent” (30:11-12). The psalmist says, “Joy comes in the morning,” and I daresay that there is also joy in the mourning.

Whatever is causing us to mourn – death, loss, sickness, our old ways of living, poverty, lack – we are not consumed because the Lord’s steadfast love never ceases and God’s mercies are new every morning. We will make it through. Great is God’s faithfulness!

Questions for discussion

  1. Where have you seen examples of hope in your life and in the life of the church?
  2. What pain are you carrying around that you need God’s steadfast love to relieve?
  3. How have you intentionally reminded yourself about God’s love and faithfulness? Can you help others do the same?

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