Rachel Weeping

In the middle of a message of hope and optimism, Jeremiah pauses to paint a picture of a devastated mother observing the suffering of her children:

Thus saith the Lord; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rahel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not.

Jeremiah 31:15

Ramah was a city just north of Jerusalem, where the tribe of Benjamin settled. Benjamin was Rachel’s youngest son, and she died giving birth to him. She wanted to call him Ben-Oni (בֶּן־אוֹנִי), “son of my sorrow,” but her husband, Jacob, gave him a more positive name: Benjamin (בִּנְיָמִין), “son of the right hand” (Genesis 35:18). It’s easy to imagine Rachel weeping as she looks down from heaven at the descendants of her son being conquered, enslaved, and carried captive into the land of Babylon.

The evangelist Matthew saw another fulfillment of this prophecy in the horrific murder of small children ordered by King Herod in Bethlehem. Surely Rachel wept once again, as she observed the senseless suffering of her descendants. (See Matthew 2:16-18.)

But for Jeremiah, this imagery is just the backdrop, not the main story. His fundamental message is that the weeping will not last forever. There is joy yet to come:

Thus saith the Lord; Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears: for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the Lord; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy.

And there is hope in thine end, saith the Lord, that thy children shall come again to their own border.

Jeremiah 31:16-17

My children have never been through anything like the Babylonian Captivity or the Massacre of the Innocents, but I know what it’s like to weep when your children are suffering. I know what it’s like to feel helpless and hopeless, to want to do anything you can to relieve their suffering, but to be unable to do so. This is true whether their suffering is physical, emotional, or spiritual. A parent doesn’t have to be reminded to “mourn with those that mourn” (Mosiah 18:9). It is instinctive. It comes naturally.

That’s why I love the phrase, “There is hope in thine end.” Whether we are suffering ourselves or watching someone we love suffer, it is imperative that we not give up hope.

We know the story of Alma’s conversion after seeing an angel of God. But we have no idea the extent of the sorrow and the anxiety implied by the words of the angel, “The Lord hath heard the prayers of…thy father; for he has prayed with much faith concerning thee” (Mosiah 27:14).

We know that Enos’s conversion came when “the words which [he] had often heard [his] father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, sunk deep into [his] heart” (Enos 1:3). But we have no idea the doubts and concerns his parents must have felt for years as he appeared to be unresponsive to their sincere teachings and testimonies.

Jeremiah’s message is this: Don’t give up. There is hope in thine end. Thy work shall be rewarded. I think every parent needs this message from time to time.

Today, I will see my children with eyes of hope. I will be grateful for all the good in their lives, and I will trust that there are many more good things to come. When they fall short of their potential or when they suffer, I will feel sorrow for them, but I will continue to envision a joyful and successful future ahead for them.

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