Hope at the Bottom of the Pit
There are times in our lives where we feel like we’ve hit rock bottom. It may come from one event that has had drastic effects on us or our loved ones. Or it may be a series of events that batters us down. What do we do when we feel like we’re at the bottom of the pit, and the walls are closing in on us?
Our reading today from Lamentations 3 finds Jeremiah feeling like the whole world is crashing down around him. Despite knowing ahead of time that the Babylonians were coming to destroy Jerusalem, and would kill many people and take the rest captive when it happened, it was still devastating.
And we too can feel forsaken and bitter during our trials.
In fact, in the aftermath, Jeremiah is so devastated by what has happened he feels forsaken by God. In verse 5, Jeremiah says, “he has besieged and enveloped me with bitterness and tribulation.” He even feels like God isn’t listening, “though I call and cry for help, he shuts out my prayer” (v7). He feels bitter (v15) and has, “forgotten what happiness is” (v17).
And we too, despite knowing this life is supposed to be full of tribulation and God is sending events to mold us and shape us, can feel forsaken and bitter during our trials.
But when he feels like giving up (v18), he pauses and reflects on the big picture. In verse 21, his mood changes with his words, “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope.” The next couple of verses are the most famous in the book of Lamentations and enshrined in a well-beloved hymn,
When we’re deep in a pit, it’s only our depth of understanding about God, His character, and purpose that can see us through.
The rest of the chapter continues with this positive tone that even in the depth of misery and despair, Jeremiah could depend on God. Consider the attributes of God mentioned in those verses. Steadfast love, the Hebrew word chesed, means loyal or covenant love. God is faithful to His covenant, and the people bound to Him in that covenant.
The word “mercies” comes from the idea of a womb, the kind of affection and compassion a mother has for her children. God has that same love for us. Faithfulness is the very central core characteristic of God, describing his utter dependency and trustworthiness.
When we’re deep in a pit, it’s only our depth of understanding about God, His character, and purpose that can see us through. If we only have a surface understanding of God’s love, compassion, and faithfulness, then our short-term suffering won’t be overcome by any long-term perspective. Jeremiah dug deep into his heart and found there the strength, developed by his understanding of who God is, to see him through.
Even when we’re in the depths of despair, we need to hold onto the understanding that God knows what He is doing in our lives
Verses 25-27, following on from this reflection of the character of God, all begin with the word for “good” in the Hebrew. It’s the same word used in Creation when everything God made was good. When God created the heavens and earth and included us in His purpose, He didn’t make a mistake.
Even when we’re in the depths of despair, we need to hold onto the understanding that God knows what He is doing in our lives – it is all for our good even while we are stuck in a deep pit.
Verse 25 says, “The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.” Part of dealing with our desperate times is trusting in the goodness of God and patiently waiting for Him, knowing He has things under control, as he also says in the next verse, “It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”
It is hard, especially when we are in the middle of a trial, to understand those trials are good for us
Perhaps the key to it all is what it says in verse 27, “It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.” We need to learn early in life the value of the yoke – knowing that hardship and trials develop our faith. We need to get into the mindset that falling into the pits of life has short-term pain but long-term value. It is hard, especially when we are in the middle of a trial, to understand those trials are good for us. But if we train our minds now, then we will be able to echo Jeremiah’s words in Lamentations 3,
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