Summary: Counsel from God’s word for those who are hurting
Precious counsel for those who are in one of life’s valleys
Scripture reading: Psalm 38
Here in North America we are not used to public displays of sorrow and grief. The old British way is to keep a “stiff upper lip”. This contrasts sharply with the images of grief that we often see on news reports that are coming from other countries.
Regardless of how people of different cultures express their sorrows the fact is grief, pain, loss, and sorrow is part of every person’s experience.
Every one of us is going to spend a fair bit of time in our lives in the valley. Death is but one of the valleys of life.
The book of Lamentations provides for us precious counsel for those who are in one of life’s valleys.
Critically, the perspective and lessons of Lamentations come from one who is in the valley and not from an armchair theologian in an ivory tower.
The historical setting for the book of Lamentations is the days following the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C.. As you may remember, for decades God had sent His prophets to warn the people of Jerusalem and the Southern Kingdom to turn from their wicked ways and return to following the Lord. The people turned a death ear and as God always does, He kept His word and punished them for their rebellion.
As we do our study today it is also important to note that the sufferings described, were, as the author confesses because of sin. This contrasts with the sufferings of Job who was not stricken because of sin but instead was being tested and tried to prove his commitment to the Lord.
Read Lamentations 3:1-48
The counsel we need
1. Don’t feel that you need to bottle all your pains in v.1-20
Chapter 3 and the entire book of Lamentations are filled with vivid, intense, and moving accounts of pain and suffering.
“Laughter and tears are natural resources that are often neglected in managing personal and professional stress. Human Support Department, El Camino Hospital, Mountain View, CA
Some people may think that crying is just a loss of control and a sign of weakness. But actually, crying is a form of stress release. Psychological counselor Li Jin from the Yang Guang Hua Ren Psychological Service
2. Realize that the pain and sufferings we experience ultimately come from the Lord- either by his permissive will or his direct agency.
Note with me the first words of v.2,3,4,5,6,7, etc.
Read and ponder v.37-39
3. Understand that the pain and sufferings we experience by the hand of God do not delight him.
In Lamentations 3:33 it says “For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men.”
Yet what does delight him? The holiness and spiritual growth that comes out of those things.
4. Contemplate this: If it were not for the depths of God’s love and mercy, things would be much worse for all of us.
In v.22 our writer says, “Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.”
If it were not for the depths of God’s love and mercy the valleys were go through would be much deeper.
5. Above all, put your hope and trust in God
When troubles come, the worst thing anyone of us can do is to turn our back on God.
From v.21ff what’s very clear is that the only thing that kept our speaker going was His hope in God and in the promises of God.
When troubles, that ultimately come from the hand of the Lord, come, turn to God and seek His face. Do not let go of your faith. Do not abandon the Lord.
6. Wait patiently for his deliverance v.24, 28-30
Be patient. Wait and learn for in the experience the Lord has much to teach us about what it means to follow Him.
Better days lie ahead for those that wait upon the Lord.
Our natural inclination when we are in pain or suffering is to moan, complain, and rage against God and others.
Quiet acceptance with a heart turned in faith towards God is what this text advocates
7. Examine yourself that you may determine if you are right with the Lord v. 40-42
If you are not right with the Lord, confess all known sin and commit to doing what is right.
God’s judgment upon the people of Jerusalem finally woke them up to the fact that they had sinned greatly against the Lord.
In 1 John 1:9-10 it says “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.”