Lifetime of Service: Limitations

Monday 13 September 2021

Sermon by Ps Ben Hooman

A profound question that arises in every generation – Where does evil come from? Why does it persist? If Jesus triumphed over evil on the cross, then why is it flourish today? And a lot of conversations – is the world getting better or worse?

  • Fear Not

  • Be Humble

  • A Soul Restored: Restore People

  • A Soul Restored: Restore Prayer

  • A Soul Restored: Restore Hope

Lifetime of Service: Expectations

Monday 06 September 2021

Sermon by Ps Ben Hooman

You love the Lord Jesus Christ and with great expectation you want to plant the Word of God into the lives of other people.
But what happens when the Word of God is sown? Jesus tells us in the Parable of the Sower what to expect.

  • Fear Not

  • Be Humble

  • A Soul Restored: Restore People

  • A Soul Restored: Restore Prayer

  • A Soul Restored: Restore Hope

OVERCOME: Evil with Good

We live in extreme difficult times in our country faced with a deadly virus, lawlessness, and a collapsing economy. Many have lost a sense of living under the authority of God, taking issues in our own hands.

“Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good”

Romans 12:21

  • Fear Not

  • Be Humble

  • A Soul Restored: Restore People

  • A Soul Restored: Restore Prayer

  • A Soul Restored: Restore Hope

Light and Hope in the Valley: Prayer and Praise

Sunday 1 Augustus 2021
Ps Ben Hooman

Please turn with me to Lamentations chapter 5 and our focus is on the end of the chapter. But let us first notice what is very striking at the beginning of this chapter in the first verse.

“Remember, O Lord, what has befallen us; look, and see our disgrace.”

Lamentations 5:1

The words ‘us’ and ‘our’ and ‘we’ are all over this chapter. Here, for the first time in the book of Lamentations, the grieving people begin to speak.

These people have been shocked, stunned, and numbed by the terrible events that have taken place in their lives. They can hardly take in what has happened to them and they sit in silence for the first four chapters. It is not easy to pray when something so devastating has come into your life.

We have referred throughout this series to the experience of family and friends whom had experienced the loss of a child, a sibling, a spouse or a father. Some might have said during the loss and sorrow, “I felt a real distance from God especially at first. I felt so low and so far from God.” Another might say, “I couldn’t pray. I just read the Psalms over and over again.” Another said, “I prayed for years, but after this happened, I began to wonder if God really hears me.”

Describing his own journey through grief, C. S. Lewis writes: “Meanwhile where is God? …Go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence.” 

There can’t be a Christian who doesn’t know what this experience is like. Lamentations describes that experience exactly: 

“You have wrapped yourself with a cloud so that no prayer can pass through”

Lamentations 3:44

This was the experience of these people. They were so shocked and stunned by what happened to them that they were unable to speak for themselves, and unable to pray for themselves. For the first four chapters, they have been sitting in silence. They don’t speak a word until chapter 5.

That raises the obvious question: Who has been speaking in the first four chapters of this book? The book of Lamentations was written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit by Jeremiah, so clearly, these are his words, spoken as he was moved by the Spirit. But the words of Lamentations go beyond what Jeremiah could fulfil.

Scholars debate how many ‘voices’ there are in the book of Lamentations. Lamentations is like a great drama with different voices – the voice of the city, the voice of the prophet, and now the voice of the people. But there is only one voice that ultimately matters.

For the first four chapters, the people have been sitting in silence. Someone has been speaking for them. Someone has been speaking to them. I’m going to call this person the Counsellor. What happens in this remarkable book is that a counsellor comes alongside these grieving people and ministers to them in their sorrow and loss. 

Who is the Counsellor? This person is never named. But the ministry that this person exercises is a model of what we would call ‘counselling’ at its very best. I want to introduce you to this wonderful counsellor today. I want to tell you about His ministry, and invite you to seek His help.

What the Counsellor does

  • The Counsellor sheds tears with the people

“How lonely sits the city that once was full of people!”

Lamentations 1:1

Lamentations begins with a description. There is no ‘we,’ ‘our,’ or ‘us’ here. The people don’t have any words. They sit in the silence of their suffering.

Picture someone sitting with their head in their hands, looking out over the ruined city, and someone comes and sits down beside them and says, “How lonely sits the city that once was full of people!” 

This Counsellor speaks for the people. He is not a detached observer. He is in the grief with the people. He sits beside the people and He weeps with those who weep. The Counsellor shares the suffering of these people – their city is His city, their loss is His loss, and their sorrow is really His sorrow.

So, verse by verse, line by line, the Counsellor, holds up the shattered pieces of the broken lives of the people with whom he sits and weeps, and he is putting into words what the people cannot express for themselves.

Picture yourself sitting with a counsellor who is helping you, supporting you, and guiding you through grief and loss. This counsellor does not sit behind a desk. He sits beside you in your sorrow.

He weeps with you. And when he speaks, he seems to express exactly what you are thinking and feeling, so that you are completely amazed. “How did you know so fully, so completely? That is exactly where I am, but I could never have put it into words like that myself.”

You may have said, “If only there was someone who could feel what I’ve felt, but no one could ever know the extent of my grief and sorrow. No one could ever plumb the depths of my mind or my heart.”

But what if there was a counsellor who was in the grief with you? What if there was a counsellor who feels all that you have felt, who saw all that you have seen, and who knew all that you have done? What if there was a counsellor who knew you completely and all that you have ever experienced?

You may say, “That is impossible! Nobody can ever fully know my mind, my heart, and all that has happened in my life.” But that is exactly what we have here.

This counsellor is not named in Lamentations. But what this book is telling us is that when the people of God were at a place so dark and so desperate that they could not speak for themselves, someone came and wept with them, and he spoke for them as one who knew their suffering from the inside.

There may be times in your life where you are convinced that nobody could ever know what you feel. Nobody could ever understand the depth of your anguish. Remember the Counsellor, who shed tears with the people.

Surely all of this points us forward to our Lord Jesus Christ, our Wonderful Counsellor, who comes alongside His people by His Holy Spirit. Our Lord refers to the Holy Spirit as “another Counsellor” (John 14:16), meaning that Christ himself is our counsellor, and that His counselling ministry is exercised in our lives by sending the Holy Spirit to live in us.

When you become a Christian, God’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit dwells in you. He is present with you in all that you experience. He knows everything you have ever felt and thought, in all of its depth and complexity. The Spirit knows it from the inside, because He dwells in you.

When you come to the place of thinking that no one could ever understand what you’ve experienced, remember the great Counsellor.

  • The Counsellor speaks truth to the people

“I am the man who has seen affliction…”

Lamentations 3:1

If you turn now to Lamentations 3, you will see that there is a very striking change. The Counsellor who has been speaking for the people now speaks to the people, and he says, “I am the man who has seen affliction…” (Lamentations 1:1).

The Counsellor has been speaking about you. He seems to know and understand you completely. He describes all that has happened to you, as if He lived in your skin. But now He begins to speak about Himself. A relationship has been established, and He wants you to know Him as He already knows you.

Picture this Counsellor – He has been sitting beside you, walking through all that has happened to you, laying out all that you have thought, putting into words all that you have felt. In this process, you have become profoundly aware that He knows you completely. Now He gets up from where He has been sitting beside you. He pulls up a chair and sits down opposite you, and looking deeply into your eyes, He begins to speak to you about himself.

Now there are other places in Lamentations where the counsellor speaks in the first person, though earlier he seems to be speaking for the people rather than for himself. But here, the counsellor speaks of his own experience.

Notice, He introduces himself as ‘the Man’: “I am the Man who has seen affliction.”

  • He suffers under the rod of God’s wrath (Lamentations 3:1)
  • He is driven into darkness without any light (Lamentations 3:2)
  • He calls and cries out for help but God shuts out his prayer (Lamentations 3:8)
  • He feels that his endurance and hope are gone (Lamentations 3:18).

But then, having described the depth of his own suffering, the man tells us about his hope.

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end”

Lamentations 3:21-22

The Counsellor moves between these two ministries of speaking for the people and speaking to the people throughout the book.

Some words in this book could only be spoken by the people. There the Counsellor is speaking ‘for’ the people. Some words could only be spoken by the Counsellor, and there the Counsellor is speaking ‘to’the people. And sometimes the lines are blurred and what is said may be the shared experience of the Counsellor and the people together.

This ministry of the Counsellor continues for four chapters. In all this time, the people have not spoken a single word. All they are able to do is to receive from the Counsellor who speaks ‘for’ them and speaks ‘to’ them. But when we come to chapter 5, the people finally speak for themselves. 

The fruit of the Counsellor’s ministry

  • The Counsellor brings people to pray

“Remember, O Lord, what has befallen us.”

Lamentations 5:1

Here is the fruit of the Counsellor’s ministry: He brings them from a place where they are unable to speak (2:10), to a place where for the very first time since the trauma they have suffered that they are able to speak to God for themselves. The Counsellor brings them to a place where they can pray.

As you would expect, the prayer comes out of tremendous agony and pain. That reminds us of something important – you don’t have to be in a composed frame of mind, filled with a wonderful sense of peace before you can pray. If you have to have it all sorted out before you can pray, most of us are never going to get there.

When Hanna prayed, she was deeply distressed and wept bitterly (1 Samuel 1:10). When Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, His soul was overwhelmed with sorrow. You don’t have to be calm, confident, and clear-minded before you can pray. You come as you are to God. You come, not because you have, but in order to receive. And there’s more.

  • The Counsellor establishes people in faith

“But you, O LORD, reign forever; your throne endures to all generations.”

Lamentations 5:18-19

Through the ministry of the Counsellor, the people finally get to the place where they are able to pray. They lay their sorrow before the Lord. The sum of it is found in verses 17 and 18: 

“For this our heart has become sick, for these things our eyes have grown dim, for Mount Zion which lies desolate. But you, O Lord, reign forever; your throne endures to all generations” (Lamentations 3:19).

What is the “but’ for? This is like in Ephesians 2 where Paul lays out the full extent of the human problem: “You were dead in… trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1), “But God, being rich in mercy… made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4,5).

They are looking at the ruined city, but the Wonderful Counsellor has brought them to the place where they can see that God doesn’t depend on a city. He has brought them to a place of faith: “You, O Lord, reign forever: your throne endures to all generations.”

An unnamed soldier who experienced the horrors of the trenches in the First World War wrote these words: “They cannot shell His temple, nor dynamite His throne, they cannot bomb His city, nor rob Him of His own. They cannot take Him captive, or strike Him deaf or blind, nor starve Him to surrender, nor make Him change his mind. They cannot cause Him panic, nor cut of His supplies, they cannot take His kingdom, nor hurt Him with their lies. Though all the world be shattered, His truth remains the same, His righteous laws still potent and Father still His name. Though we face war and hunger and feel their goad and rod, we know above confusion there always will be God”. 

  • The Counsellor restores people to hope

“Restore us to Yourself, O LORD, that we may be restored!”

Lamentations 5:21

God is wonderfully honoured here in this expression of hope: “Lord, restore us to Yourself! Lord, if we have You, we know we can face anything. Whatever happens, there is hope for us, so long as we have You!” That honours God wonderfully.

There is a Wonderful Counsellor who can bring you to a place where you can pray. He can establish you in faith. He can restore your hope.

There’s something else here that is also important: Because of the Counsellor these people have faith, hope, and prayer, but they still have questions.

“Renew our days as of old – unless You have utterly rejected us, and You remain exceedingly angry with us.”

Lamentations 5:21-22

When you first read this, you may feel that Lamentations would have a better ending if it stopped at verse 21: “Restore us to Yourself, O Lord, and we will be restored!” Isn’t that the perfect ending? Why spoil it by adding verse 22? God makes no mistakes, and verse 22 is exactly the right ending for two reasons.

  • Grief is never neat and tidy

People who pray, people who are established in faith, and people who are renewed in hope still have questions. We walk by faith, not by sight. One day faith will be turned to sight, but today is not that day. So, until that day, we will have questions. The last verse of Lamentations guards against premature closure.

C.S. Lewis comments on how people often speak about “getting over it,” sometimes with little understanding of the ongoing effects of grief and loss. To say the patient is ‘getting over it’ after an operation for appendicitis is one thing; after he’s had his leg off it is quite another. After that operation either the wounded stump heals or the man dies. If it heals, the fierce continuous pain will stop. Presently he’ll get back his strength and be able to stump about on his wooden leg. He has ‘got over it.’ But he will probably have recurrent pains in the stump all his life… and he will always be a one-legged man.”  

So, I think it is exactly the right ending. God’s people are able to pray, they are wonderfully restored to faith and to hope, but they still have questions.

  • The question was not answered for years

“Restore us to Yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored! Renew our days as of old – unless You have utterly rejected us, and You remain exceedingly angry with us.”

Lamentations 5:22

Lord, are you done with us? God’s people knew that God could restore Jerusalem, but they did not know if He would! Lord, we know that You can! We don’t know if You will!

There are questions raised in the Old Testament that are not answered until the New Testament. To answer the final question of Lamentations, you need to roll the Bible story forward.

Nearly 600 years after the book of Lamentations was written, the Counsellor (whose name is never spoken, but who is whispered through the pages of this book) took flesh. Jesus Christ is the Wonderful Counsellor and He answered the final question of Lamentations at the cross.

Lord, are You done with us? Have You rejected us forever? Will You be angry with us forever? God answered these questions by sending His Son. He became “the Man” of Lamentations 3:1, the Man who suffered affliction under the rod of divine wrath.

How extraordinary that after Pontius Pilate had Jesus so cruelly scourged and he put the crown of thorns on His head, he said, “Behold the Man!” (John 19:5). He would have had no idea that in saying this, he was fulfilling Lamentations 3:1!

Jesus Christ is the Wonderful Counsellor anticipated in Lamentations. He sheds tears with the people and He speaks truth to the people.

  • The Counsellor suffers and triumphs for the people.

The suffering is here in Lamentations, but there is nothing here about triumph. Lamentations ends with God’s people waiting in hope, sustained by the ministry of the Counsellor who was yet to come. The good news of the gospel is that this Wonderful Counsellor has come. God became “the Man,” and when He did, He went ‘to’ the lowest point and the darkest place. But that was not the end for Him. He passed ‘through’ the lowest place, and he came ‘out of’ it in the triumph of his resurrection.

Thank God for the resurrection! Thank God for the empty tomb! This Counsellor who sheds tears with His people and speaks truth to His people also suffers and triumphs forHis people. And He is the Counsellor to whom you can come!

There is a wonderful Counsellor. He can bring you to the place where you can pray. He knows you completely. He wants you to know Him in the power of His death and of His resurrection.

If you knew everything that was in Jesus, you would not have any more doubt before God. None of us is there yet. Until then, we walk by faith, not by sight.

Here’s what that means: The more you come to know Jesus, the more you will be able to say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

  • Fear Not

  • Be Humble

  • A Soul Restored: Restore People

  • A Soul Restored: Restore Prayer

  • A Soul Restored: Restore Hope

Light and Hope in the Valley: Healing and Hope

Sunday 25 July 2021
Ps Ben Hooman

Please open your Bible at Lamentations chapter 3. In this series up to now we looked at four themes on this book of Lamentations which is a gift from God for all who grieve.

“My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:20-23)

Talk and Tears

We saw that tears are a gift from God; God gave you tear ducts for a reason. The entire book of Lamentations puts sorrow into words. We have a Saviour, the Man of Sorrows, to whom we can come in our sorrow.

Grievance and Guilt

Grief usually comes with guilt attached, and we looked at the marvellous provision Christ has made for cleansing guilt from the conscience, whether that guilt be true or false.

We saw that grief often comes with grievance attached. We saw that verse-after-verse, line-after-line, the grievances of God’s people are laid out. There is no better place to pour out your grievance than in the presence of God.

Christ calls you to look through your guilt and grievance to the cross. We ended last time with the voice of one who suffers greatly saying to us, “Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow” (Lamentations 1:12). You who are filled with sorrow – take a look at mine! Then he says, 

“See if there is any sorrow like my sorrow, which was brought upon me, which the Lord inflicted on the day of his fierce anger” (Lamentations 1:12) 

In other words, he is saying, “You have a grievance at what God has inflicted on you? Take a look at what God has inflicted on me!”

In these words, we hear the voice of God Himself – God the Son, God incarnate, Jesus Christ, the One on whom the Lord has laid the iniquities of us all (Isaiah 53:6). It is hard not to believe that God loves you when you are looking at the cross.

Hope and Healing

Today we come to our third pair of themes – hope and healing. The word ‘hope’ is found four times in the book of Lamentations, and all of them are in the verses that are before us today.

“I have forgotten what happiness is”, so I say, ‘My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the LORD” (Lamentations 3:17-18) 

My hope has perished! I’ve lost it. But then, notice that a few verses later, the same person says this: 

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope” (Lamentations 3:21) 

There is something that this person, who has lost hope calls to mind and when she does, the hope she had lost is restored. We will want to discover what that is. Then this person says, 

“The LORD is my portion, says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him” (Lamentations 3:24)

But then notice a few verses later, 

“Let him sit alone in silence when it is laid on him; let him put his mouth in the dust— there may yet be hope” (Lamentations 3:28-29) 

There is some doubt there. There “may be”. So, we have the whole range of hope in these verses – hope lost, hope found, and hope questioned! One thing we learn here is surely that the strength of your hope may vary as you walk through the journey of grief: I have hope. I will hope. I’ve lost hope. Theremay yet be hope.All of these came from the mouth of the same person in the valley of sorrow and loss. And that person is one of God’s people.

But the big surprise is that the word ‘hope’ should appear in the book of Lamentations at all! This is our third week in Lamentations, and we have begun to get a sense of the extraordinary trauma and loss these people had experienced.

They had endured the horrors of starvation until their city collapsed. They had lost their homes. Many of the children had died. Grown sons and daughters had been deported, leaving their parents little hope of ever seeing them again. Many of the women had been horribly abused, and now as the slaves of an occupying army, they had to find a way to build a life in the ruins and rubble of their once great city.

It is not surprising that these people, who have endured such loss, saying “I have forgotten what happiness is! My hope has perished.” That’s no surprise. What is surprising is that out of the same mouth of these people, who have endured such horrors, should come the words: “I have hope” (3:21) and “I will hope” (3:24).

How can grieving people find hope in the valley of sorrow and loss? That is the question before us today and I want to offer two answers from the Bible – one from the New Testament, and the other from these verses in Lamentations. 

First, I want us to see the ultimate hope that is ours, and then I want us to see the immediate hope that is ours. We don’t need one or the other, we need both.

Hope in God’s ultimate purpose

First then is ultimate hope that is hope in God’s purpose. In the New Testament is one of the treat statements of hope.

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13)

Paul is not saying, “Christians do not grieve.” That would be a terrible misunderstanding of this verse. Christians grieve too! Jesus wept! And God put Lamentations in the Bible. The pain of grief and loss is as real and deep to a Christian as to anyone else.

The pain of loss is greatest for those who have loved most deeply. And that means that those who grow the most in love will hurt the most when a loved one is taken away. Paul is certainly not saying that Christians do not grieve. He is saying that there are two different kinds of grief. There is grief with hope and there is grief without hope.

Grief without hope is the experience of a person who does not believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. For that person, death brings a final separation that is ultimate. There may be fond memories to look back on. There may be future chapters of life and of love to be found in this world, but for the person who does not believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, there is no hope whatsoever of enjoying the company of the one who has died ever again.

But Paul says to Christian believers, “Our grief is not like that!” We do not grieve like those who do not believe in the resurrection, who have no hope. Our grief is different, because it is shot through with the living hope that is ours through the resurrection of Jesus.

“For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep” (1 Thessalonians 4:14) 

We believe Jesus died and rose! We know death was not the end for Jesus, and so when bereavement comes, we know that death is not the end for those who have died in Him. Why? Because God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep.

Death brought a great separation of body and soul for your believing loved one. When the soul of your believing loved one left his or her body, his or her soul was in the immediate, conscious enjoyment of the presence of God. For him or her, that is better by far! (Philippians 1:23).

But their body is not with the Lord. The body was buried, or their ashes were scattered. What we are being told here is that when Christ returns in glory, He will bring the souls of those who are already with Him. And when He does, He will give them new bodies. And, at the same time, He will give the same gift of the resurrection body to believers who are still living.

This is why Paul says, “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).

So, returning to Thessalonians, the apostle Paul says, “We who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

“Together with them” means together with the Christian loved ones who are already with the Lord. So here is the marvellous hope that is given to Christian believers by our risen Lord: You will see your believing loved one who died in Jesus Christ again! 

It was C. S. Lewis who famously said: “Christians never say goodbye.” We never say goodbye (in an ultimate sense), because we believe that Jesus died and rose again.

There’s something else that is very wonderful here: In the presence of Jesus, we will be made perfect, complete, and whole. All of God’s people will fully reflect – each in a unique and individual manner – the glory of Jesus. Those who died in infancy will not be eternal infants. Those who died after an extended life, in which the latter years were marked by frailty and dementia, will not be eternally frail or forgetful.

In the presence of Jesus, each of us will be all that God created us to be. In the resurrection, every single one of God’s children will reach the full measure of his or her redeemed power and potential.

Let me make this application especially to fathers and mothers who have endured the unspeakable sorrow of losing a child. I’m speaking now also to those who have grieved over a miscarriage. How great will be your joy when you see what that little one, whose life was ended early on earth, has become. When you see that son, that daughter, in the full flourishing of all that God made him or her to be, you will say, “Well, look at you now!”

Pastor Al Martin, whose wife died of cancer writes: “In these last months… she embraced with noble grace and dignity the many indignities connected with the loss of much of her physical beauty and strength. I vividly remember kneeling by her bedside, just a few weeks before she died, and saying to her, ‘Sweetheart, when God is done with you in the day of resurrection, you will be so beautiful that I will not recognize you. God will have to introduce me to you.’”  

That’s our hope in God’s ultimate purpose! We grieve – but not like those who have no hope, because our Jesus died and rose!

Hope in God’s immediate presence

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope” (Lamentations 3:21)

Jerusalem was the most blessed city on the face of the earth, and now it had become a heap of ruins. What would you expect the message of hope to be? What does he call to mind that gives him hope?

I would expect the message of hope to be something like this: “The great city of God will be restored. After 70 years, God will bring his people back (as indeed he did. There will be a new temple. Walls will be rebuilt. Gates will be hung. Homes will be constructed, and children will play in the streets again!”

The promise of God’s people returning and rebuilding the city is found in other parts of the Old Testament Scriptures, but we don’t find anything about that here in the book of Lamentations.

Then, beyond the rebuilding of Jerusalem that took place in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, we might have expected God to speak about the New Jerusalem (that John saw in the book of Revelation) coming down from heaven.

“One day you will see, not only Jerusalem restored, but Jerusalem made perfect.” There will be a New Jerusalem. It will come down from heaven. It will be a holy city, and in it there will be no more crying or pain (Revelation 21:1-4).

You may say, “Well, that’s the New Testament.” Yes, but there are places in the Old Testament that anticipate this glorious Jerusalem. 

“I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress” (Isaiah 65:19) 

That’s Isaiah in the Old Testament Scriptures. But we don’t find anything like this in Lamentations, which is all about Jerusalem destroyed. Why?

The fulfilment of God’s ultimate purpose is very wonderful, and every Christian needs to know it. But it may seem a long way from the painful realities that a grieving person is facing now. Heaven may be wonderful for the person who has died, but it may seem very distant from the one who grieves their loss, especially if that loss was sudden and unexpected.

The immediate question for the one who grieves is, “How am I going to get through today?” The New Jerusalem is not the answer to that question. Look again at what the grieving person in Lamentations is dealing with – “My soul is bereft of peace!” (3:17). “I have forgotten what happiness is!” (3:17).

He says, “My endurance has perished” (3:18). In other words, “I am just so tired. I don’t have any energy. Everything seems like an enormous effort to me. I have lost interest in doing things. I don’t have the heart for it anymore.”

Then he says, “My hope from the Lord (has perished)” (3:18). He is saying, “I don’t feel the presence of God with me. I don’t feel that I can pray. The hope I once had and the comfort I once found in God seems to have deserted me.”

“My soul continually remembers (my affliction)” (3:20). Anyone who has experienced trauma or suffered violence knows what this is like. Your memory replays the horror of what happened again and again. You can’t get it out of your mind. It comes back to you when you are in the car, in the shower, and most of all, when you are in bed at night.

“My soul continually remembers it!” (3:20). Christopher Wright gives the sense of this verse: “I vividly, frequently, painfully, wretchedly, continually remember until my soul sinks down into misery and depression.” That’s where these people were.

Then we have these extraordinary words: “But this I call to mind and therefore I have hope” (3:21). What in the world could a person call to mind – when their soul has no peace, when they have forgotten what happiness is, when their endurance has perished, and their hope is gone – that would make it possible to say, “This I call to mind and therefore I have hope”?

Here the is the answer: 

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

The focus of hope for the person in the depth of sorrow, trying to put life together in the ruins and rubble of loss, is not the hope of God’s ultimate purpose, wonderful and glorious though that is.

The focus of that hope is God’s immediate presence. God’s mercies are new every morning. Your Redeemer is faithful. He is true. He is with you. He is for you and He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

But here’s the question that we cannot avoid: How can I believe that God, who allow such pain and sorrow into my life, is actually with me and for me? How can the person who says (in verse 15), “He has filled me with bitterness” also say (in verse 22), “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases”? How can the same person say these two things? How can the person who says (in verse 16), “He has made my teeth grind on gravel,” say (in verses 22-23) “His mercies…are new every morning”?

In November 2013, the Philippines were hit by the strongest typhoon ever recorded at landfall. 6,500 people are known to have died (the actual number was probably much larger), and one million people lost their homes. Christopher Wright records the story of a young girl who managed to reach one of the evacuation centres just as the storm came.  The waters began rushing in, and at that moment, the little girl cried out: “Jesus, tama na po!” which means, “Jesus, please, enough!” And as she shouted, someone lifted her to safety and she survived. Think about the intuitive cry of this little girl in her moment of trauma: “Jesus, tama na po! Jesus, please, enough!”

There are whispers of the name of Jesus all over Lamentations, but never more so than in these verses.

“I am the man who has seen affliction under the rod of his wrath”(Lamentations 3:1) 

That’s what happened to Jesus on the cross – He bore the divine wrath for us. Can you hear these words in the mouth of Jesus?

“Let him give his cheek to the one who strikes” (Lamentations 3:30) 

That’s what Jesus did.

“I have become the laughingstock of all peoples, the object of their taunts all day long” (Lamentations 3:14) 

You hear the mocking crowd as Jesus hangs on the cross. This is what happened to Him. There is a whisper of Jesus’ name right here.

“Though I call and cry for help, he shuts out my prayer” (Lamentations 3:8)

That was the experience of Jesus when he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” At the cross, God brings grief and loss to Jesus, and He brings compassion through Jesus.

Here is where our hope lies: Christ suffered in the darkness so that God’s mercy should reach you and God’s love should hold you, even in your greatest loss. In Christ we have the hope of God’s ultimate purpose, and the hope of God’s immediate presence.

We call to mind the mercies of God, so that we have hope. The small mercies of the sky, the sun, and the birds singing point to the great mercy on which all our hope depends: “The Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me!” The Son of God loves you and He gave Himself for you.

Call this to mind and you will have hope! In Christ, the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. Great is His faithfulness.