I have been meditating on the book of Lamentations as I watch the destruction of Ukrainian cities by invading Russian forces. Lamentations helps me to come to grips with the sheer extent of the suffering of the Ukrainian people. Never before has this seemingly “dark” and “foreboding” book been more meaningful to me.  I keep its message in mind as I attempt to make sense of all the commentary being offered by a watching world.  Thank you, Lord, for your word to us in Lamentations today. 

Jeremiah and his fellow Jews lamented the devastation of their beloved city at the hands of the Babylonians in 587 BC, which resulted in their going into exile for 70 years.  “It is impossible to overstate either the intensity or the complexity of the suffering that came to a head in the devastation of Jerusalem and then continued on into the seventy years of exile in Babylon.  Loss was total. Carnage was rampant. Cannibalism and sacrilege were twin horrors stalking the streets of destroyed Jerusalem. The desperate slaying of innocent children showed complete loss of respect for human worth…The worst that can happen to body and spirit, to person and nation, happened here – a nadir of suffering.  And throughout the world the suffering continues, both in large-scale horrors and in personal agonies” (Message).

It will take years for Western culture to digest the evil that is being paraded before us each day.  Much will be said and written; there will be plenty of blame to go around; but the sheer disregard for human life will shake any confidence we have in the future of our civilized world.  I strongly encourage you to join the lament of this book.  It sure has helped me find a place to process my grief and dismay.

I am learning to enter into the lament of the prophet Jeremiah: “This is why I weep and my eyes overflow with tears. No one is near to comfort me, no one to restore my spirit.  My children are destitute because the enemy has prevailed” (Lam. 1:16).  Jeremiah felt like God had turned against him, “I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of his wrath.  He has driven me away and made me walk in darkness rather than light; indeed, he turned his hand against me again and again, all day long” (Lam. 3:1).

Jeremiah warns the people not to listen to the false prophets, “The visions of your prophets were false and worthless; they did not expose your sin to ward off your captivity.  The oracles they gave you were false and misleading” (Lam. 2:14).  He reminded them of God’s sovereignty. “The Lord has done what he planned; he has fulfilled his word, which he decreed long ago” (Lam. 2:17). 

Jeremiah advises the people to cry out to the Lord: “Arise, cry out in the night, as the watches of the night begin; pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord” (Lam. 2:19).  They should pray for spiritual awakening. “Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.  Let us lift up our hearts and our hands to God in heaven and say: ‘We have sinned and rebelled and you have not forgiven’ (Lam. 3:40-42). 

Above all, in the midst of his lament, Jeremiah finds hope in God’s faithfulness:  “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” (Lam. 3:22-23).