Hope in Lament

The last three weeks, the sermons at Gateway have been on the book of Judges. In fact, we are almost half-way through the book of judges. When we started this sermon series, I told you all that the theme running throughout the book that holds all of these stories together was the steadfast love and faithfulness of God. Perhaps this topic deserves a second look through the lens of Lamentations.
3:22The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; 
23they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
24"The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him."
25The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him.
26It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.
27It is good for one to bear the yoke in youth,
28to sit alone in silence when the Lord has imposed it,
29to put one's mouth to the dust (there may yet be hope),
30to give one's cheek to the smiter, and be filled with insults.
31For the Lord will not reject forever.
32Although he causes grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
33for he does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone.
Lamentations is a book of mourning for the destruction of Jerusalem by the hand of Babylon in 586 BCE. You might think, then, that Lamentations is not a relevant piece of scripture for you, but there is much more to this small book than meets the eye. For example, in the passage above, the author (traditionally Jeremiah) reminds the reader that even though life may become unbearable, God is still faithful. More precisely, the author reassures you that when life hasn't turned out the way you expected God's love hasn't ended, God's mercy is still present, God is still faithful, God is good to those who are patient, and God is still worth hoping in. Still find that hard to swallow? Let's throw in some context.
 
These words were written from exile by an exile. Jerusalem was just tossed like a jail cell by Babylon to the extent that no brick was left unturned in the city. The temple was burned, the houses were destroyed, and the town was unrecognizable. Not only was Jerusalem gone, but the people were carted off to another country to live in someone else's home, and they were surrounded by a culture, language, and way of life that were not their own. If you think you have it bad now, imagine having your exact current life conditions that you have now and having your entire nation wiped out while you were caravanned to another country to live in a place where you do not know the language, religion, customs, or people. That is the place these words come from, and yet these are words of hope and trust.
 
It is mind-boggling that the author of these words could have their entire life turned upside down and still be able to pen such beautiful and optimistic words. But shouldn't these words be familiar too? We worship the same God today, and God is still as patient, loving, merciful, kind, and saving today. Should we not also have the same kind of hope when our lives are turned upside down? Absolutely. Let me tell you why. After the Israelites went into exile they lived in Babylon 70 years, but at the end of those 70 years they went back home. When they got home they found everything in ruins, but God helped them to rebuild their walls, the temple, their homes, and their lives. Before long, God had completely restored the Israelites and set their lives back in order. They were home again, and things were good.
 
You see, God doesn't promise that your life will always be perfect, care-free, and without problems, but God does promise to be with you when life gets unbearable, and God does promise to help you pick up the pieces and start again. Truth be told, the Bible is nothing but a collection of stories of people whose lives went off the rails and the God who set them straight. So have hope, because the God who brought Israel home from Babylon is the God who sits with you in waiting rooms. Have hope, because the God who helped Israel rebuild their home is the God who wipes your tears. Have hope, because the God who sent his son to die on a cross is the God who is always with you, surrounding you, and for you.