Lamentations 3:19-27 New International Version (NIV)
“I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. “
Recent events in my life have brought me back to this great verse, memorized many years ago. However, I’ve never looked in depth at it.
The passages leading up to verse 21 are pretty miserable. Historians feel this book was written by the prophet Jeremiah after the fall of Jerusalem. Undoubtedly a dark time for the Jews. It is written as a poem, and as many poems of the time, it is an acrostic, meaning that each stanza begins with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
Right before the poem makes an abrupt change, the author summarizes his earlier bemoaning by saying that he remembers these afflictions, the la’anah and rosh which were Hebrew words for the bitter herb Wormwood and for poison or venom from a serpent. These memories literally cause his soul to shuach or sink down within him. I can not think of a better way to describe depression or grief.
Then the mood changes as Jeremiah calls something to mind, or shub which in Hebrew means to turn back or return. In other words he deliberately stops his depressing decent by thinking, or returning to truths he already knows which allows something incredible to happen; hope.
The great truth he claims is that the Lord is so tenderhearted that we are not consumed. The Hebrew word is tamam which really means finished, spent, destroyed, ended, gone. We won’t get to our end, or as the NIV says, be consumed so that nothing’s left. Why? Because His compassions never end. Here’s another great visual, for the word compassion is the Hebrew word racham which in a literal since means womb. Symbolically there is no greater tender love than that from a mother to an infant. That merciful love from God towards us will never be spent or finished.
Not only does it never end, that compassion is new every morning. From the Hebrew, it is fresh at the break of dawn, and just like the sun’s rays burst onto the horizon each day, so do we start fresh.
More than our need to return or look back to truths we know in times of despair, Jeremiah models another behavior that helps, as he talks to himself. He is claiming something out loud to himself, that the Lord is his portion. This Hebrew word, cheleq is talking about a territory or inheritance. The phrase comes from Numbers 18:20 where God tells Aaron, unlike the other tribes of Judah, his tribe won’t get any land or inheritance, instead they get God. Jeremiah is reminding himself that God is all he needs, God is his inheritance and because of this he has hope. Although translated into wait – the word is the same as the “hope” claimed in verse 21.
Finally he claims that God will show kindness or goodness to those who do wait and to those who seek him. The word for seek is darash which is a searching, questioning, pursuing. There is action in this as well, and to me this gives permission to question misery.
When our spirit sinks then we must look back to the truths we know about God’s mercies, we certainly can question and seek answers, but ultimately we must talk to ourselves to remind our souls that God is enough.