Summary: When there seems to be no possibility of anything good happening in life, you can find hope in
Hope in Times of Despair
Lamentations 3:1-6, 16-25
The year is 586 BCE. The nation Israel had already been taken into captivity. Now, the city of Jerusalem was under siege by the Babylonians. Soon, the walls of the city would be destroyed. The Babylonian army would plunder all the gold, silver, and bronze items in the temple. Then, they would destroy the temple. Many people would be killed, others would be taken captive to Babylon, and the rest would be left in Judah without anything. Their whole society and way of life was being completely destroyed. It is in this context that Jeremiah writes these words. [read ]
The words I read are from Jeremiah, a Hebrew prophet whose professional life was from about 626 BCE to about 586 BCE. He is responsible for the Book of Jeremiah and the Book of Lamentations in the Old Testament. The Lamentations are almost like diaries, giving us first-hand insight into the personal life of this man.
I. When All is Hopeless
We have read the testimony of a man who felt mistreated by God. He felt hopeless. He did not expect anything good to come into his life. Jeremiah’s suffering had caused him to lose hope.
What has happened in your life that has caused you to feel hopeless? The loss of a loved one? The loss of a job? A habit or an addiction that is controlling your life? Broken relationships that can’t be healed?
When you are depressed, you feel hopeless. When you feel rejected by those you love, you feel hopeless. When you have a medical problem that resists all efforts of cure, you feel hopeless. When you are struggling with an addiction or struggling with a habit you cannot break, when you don’t expect anything good is going to come your way; you feel hopeless.
A. Pain is guaranteed for anyone who takes on the task of living.
If you’re not going through a hard time right now, just wait -- you will. That’s the nature of living in a world like ours. Some of you are in the furnace of suffering right now. Others of you have just come out, and the rest of us will be there sooner or later.
George Barna, the public-opinion pollster, conducted a national survey in which he asked adult this question: “If you could ask God one question, what would you ask?” The top response was, “Why is there pain and suffering?”
B. We suffer because of our own actions.
We may not always understand what thought or deed created a chain of events that has led to our suffering. On the other hand, if you have been a chain smoker and contract lung cancer or have an aortic embolism due to smoking, your thought and actions have been the cause.
C. We often suffer because of the thoughts and actions of other people.
We are caught in the overflow of events that affect us and we have no control over them. A drunken driver kills a young child. Someone is robbed and beaten up. A driver crosses the middle line and smashes head-on into another car.
D. Then, we suffer for reasons that cannot be explained.
We suffer because of circumstance. I have head preachers say that there are no circumstances with God. However, if there is human freedom there must be circumstance.
Back in 2001 a story in The New Yorker magazine reported that CNN founder Ted Turner was suicidal after the breakup of his marriage to Jane Fonda and losing control of Turner Broadcasting. Interestingly, Turner told the magazine that his marriage to Fonda broke up partly because of her decision to become a practicing Christian.
Turner is a strident nonbeliever who is filled with bitterness not just because of his marital and business problems, but also because his own father killed himself when Ted was 24 and then his sister later died from a painful disease. When asked about these tragedies, Turner responded, “I couldn’t understand how someone so innocent should be allowed to suffer so much” (Associated Press, 4/16/01). Ted Turner was suffering for reasons that could not be explained.
How can we negotiate life when the road is filled with one pothole after another, blind curves, and dead ends? The answer is not a new life, a new career, or a new spouse. The answer is a new attitude of hope.
II. Hope is Possible
In spite of all the uncertainties of life, hope is possible. What is this hope we need and how is it possible? The word “hope” is like the word “love.” It is widely used but rarely understood. The hope of many people are empty wishes waiting to be fulfilled by the gods of Black Friday. We are expressing a desire and wishing it would come true, but we have no guarantee that what we want is what we will get.