Tucked away in the Old Testament is a small, little-known book called Lamentations. Most Christians know very little about this book. It is, however, a book that sheds so much light on our world today and speaks to people in the 21st Century.
In 587 B.C. Jerusalem fell to the powerful army of King Nebuchadnezzar. The best and brightest were deported to Babylon to feed the growing empire’s need for leaders. The tragedy of that day is depicted in poetic language in five laments in this book. Jeremiah had spent most of his life warning the leaders and people of the impending judgment; the people, however, ignored the warnings. The prophet’s words had very forcefully and eloquently predicted the horrific events that happened on that fateful day.
Jeremiah was there, and every emotion was stirred as he saw and felt the suffering of his people. It didn’t matter that the suffering was deserved unlike in Job’s situation. The prophet described the city as a despondent queen who had now become a slave.
This tiny book is so relevant for us today because of pervasive suffering that surrounds us. Lamentations describes what is going on in the far reaches of forgotten places and in the loneliest heart that grieves from loss. The prophet, under the inspiration of the Spirit, gives voice to our emotions of anger, shame, guilt, abandonment, and fear.
In the second lament, Jeremiah describes all of our most bitter disappointments when we feel there is absolutely no hope. All the negative emotions we could possibly encounter have overwhelmed us. Listen to his words as he speaks perhaps for you at this very moment:
15 He has filled me with bitter herbs
and sated me with gall.
16 He has broken my teeth with gravel;
he has trampled me in the dust.
17 I have been deprived of peace;
I have forgotten what prosperity is.
18 So I say, "My splendor is gone
and all that I had hoped from the Lord."
Then with all the dreams trampled underfoot, Jeremiah remembers something so profound that it changes how he sees life and impacts how he feels. Jeremiah remembers God’s faithfulness and an amazing transformation takes place despite the pain he feels:
19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
22 Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him."
Do you remember that God is with us? That is what Jeremiah remembered on that day. Nothing, not even King Nebuchadnezzar with his powerful army, could stop the mighty love and compassion of God. In fact, that is one of the names given to Jesus at his birth “Immanuel” which means God is with us.
This week I fell on the ice, but it was really more like I got slammed. It was like somebody picked my feet up and then slammed by head down on the ice. It all happened so fast that I was on the ground before I knew what happened. That is how life is for us sometimes. We get slammed with disappointment, and we didn’t even see it coming. Christmas means even there on the ground Jesus is with you. His faithful acts never stop, and Christmas is a reminder of that great truth.