3. Comfort in a Compassionate God: Lamentations
God does not begrudgingly forgive; his love flows forth all the more in your sin
Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness.
Surely my soul remembers
And is bowed down within me.
This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.
The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I have hope in Him.”
Do your sin and struggles ever restrain you from going to God? What do you assume God feels about you when you fall short?
Given our inclination to often hesitate before going to God when we sin, the message of Lamentations is wonderfully surprising. The book is a poetic reflection on Israel’s exile and the siege of their capital Jerusalem. As a consequence for their sin, Israel has been overtaken by Babylon and carried off into captivity.
In this tragic event, every symbol of God’s presence has been taken away: the Promised Land God gave to them, the temple and its worship practices, and the ruling royal line of David from which God promised a saving King was to come. God’s people are grieving at the deterioration of their nation and suffering at the hands of their captors. Violence and destruction have ransacked their home.
The author of this book understands that these circumstances are judgment for the nation’s sins. He knows they are deserved. “The Lord is in the right,” he says in chapter 1. But given this reality, the author doesn’t stay at a distance. He goes to God. He boldly voices his feelings, his pain, and his confusion. Why?
Because he knows that God is a God of compassion. “The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail (Lamentations 3:22).” The author believes that God will remain faithful to his people even in the face of their sin. His hope is not that his people will clean up their act and become good enough to earn God’s favor; rather, his hope is in God’s resilient love and faithfulness! He says God’s mercies are “new every morning”: they do not run out.
God’s deepest heart, what he actually delights to do, is to show compassion to his people. God does not begrudgingly forgive; rather, his love flows forth all the more in our sin.
In Lamentation 3:58, we see that God’s compassion leads to restoration: “O Lord, You have pleaded my soul’s cause; You have redeemed my life.” The author is referring to the way God restored him in this specific circumstance, but this verse points to the ultimate form of restoration that came in the person of Christ! Jesus took up his people’s cause when he went to the cross for them. He took on the judgment humanity’s sin deserved, the judgment that the book of Lamentations mourns. And Jesus redeemed his people’s lives when he rose from the dead, making a way for people to have new and eternal life in him!
When we sin and experience consequences such as relational strain, the weight of guilt, or resulting chaos in our life, we need to turn our gaze and look at the cross!
The word compassion means to “suffer with,” and because Jesus came to earth, took on our humanity, and then felt the weight of all the sin in the world on the cross, we know that he can empathize with us! Jesus enters into our suffering with us. The cross not only shines out the compassion we have in God but also the hope. It declares that our sins do not have the final word: God’s grace does!
RESPOND: Is there something keeping you from coming to God now? Knowing that your sins don’t turn God away from you but actually open the floodgates of His heart of compassion for you, take a moment to bring your sin and pain to God.