Lamentations 3 traces the author’s journey through three emotional states, each of which elicits a different kind of exclamation and a different perspective on the author’s relationship with God.
Stage 1: Dejection
For the first seventeen verses, the author describes God as his or her enemy:
- “He hath led me, and brought me into darkness, but not into light” (Lamentations 3:2).
- “He hath hedged me about, that I cannot get out: he hath made my chain heavy” (Lamentations 3:7).
- “He hath turned aside my ways, and pulled me in pieces: he hath made me desolate” (Lamentations 3:11).
The author is in distress and feels that this distress is caused by God.
Stage 2: Conviction
In verse 18, the author begins to rally, remembering God’s love for His children:
- “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not” (Lamentations 3:22).
- “It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord” (Lamentations 3:26).
- “But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies” (Lamentations 3:32).
These statements of truth sound to me like an attempt to overcome the despair of the prior verses. Reminding himself or herself of these truths, the author is motivated once again to look upwards and to reach out to God for help.
Stage 3: Supplication
Beginning in verse 40, the author decides “to turn again to the Lord:”
- “I called upon thy name, O Lord, out of the low dungeon. Thou hast heard my voice: hide not thine ear at my breathing, at my cry” (Lamentations 3:55-56).
- “O Lord, thou hast pleaded the causes of my soul; thou hast redeemed my life. O Lord, thou hast seen my wrong: judge thou my cause” (Lamentations 3:58-59).
It’s been quite a journey, from estrangement through faith to reconnection. By intentionally remembering truths about God, the author is motivated to reach out to Him again in prayer and receive His blessings.
Shortly after his father’s death, the Book of Mormon prophet Nephi wrote a psalm which follows a similar pattern. Although he doesn’t describe God as his enemy, he does express tremendous frustration with himself: “I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me. And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins” (2 Nephi 4:18-19). He rallies by remembering the great things the Lord has done for him: “He hath heard my cry by day, and he hath given me knowledge by visions in the night-time” (2 Nephi 4:23). These memories motivate him to reach out to God for help: “O Lord, wilt thou redeem my soul? Wilt thou deliver me out of the hands of mine enemies? Wilt thou make me that I may shake at the appearance of sin?” (2 Nephi 4:31).
I’ve learned two lessons from these passages of scriptures as I’ve pondered them today:
- It’s important to be patient with others—and with myself—when we sound like the first part of Lamentations 3 or Nephi’s psalm. We all experience difficult things and the frustration we express may sound a lot like unbelief or despair. It’s probably not permanent. We’re probably just processing the trauma and not quite ready to deal with it constructively yet.
- Remembering is key. If we can tap into our spiritual reserves by remembering truths about God or experiences we have had with Him before, that may inspire us to reach to Him again and to plead for His help in overcoming our challenges.
Today I will remember the stages of grief and faith demonstrated by these two passages of scripture. I will strive to be patient with myself and others when negative feelings are overpowering. I will also find ways to remind myself and others of the goodness of God, so that we can welcome God’s power into our lives again.