A Meditation on Pain, Hope, and Uncertainty

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A meditation on Lamentations 3:19-32. Reflections as I wait through and slowly crawl out of a setback.

I remember my affliction and my wandering,

The bitterness and the gall.

I well remember them,

and my soul is downcast within me.

The pain cannot be forgotten. The suffering cannot be pushed to the side. The pain must be felt, experienced, borne, and passed through. We well remember; we do not forget, and we should not make this our aim. The memories will always be a part of us, remain a piece of us, grieve us, form us into something new.

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.

So often these verses are pulled out in isolation, carelessly quoted out of context. For hope comes with many unwanted companions, existing in tandem with pain, sorrow, and grief. His love and compassion envelop us and enfold us in new ways each morning, but new mercies so often intermingle effortlessly with life’s pain and suffering. Why so often is the Lord’s love and compassion equated with prosperity, wealth, and health? He is faithful to save, our spiritual safety is assured, and we feel his watchful presence. Yet still we grieve, still we lose, still must we suffer even as his compassion upholds us.

I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;

Therefore I will wait for him”

The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,

to the one who seeks him;

it is good to wait quietly

for the salvation of the Lord.

It is good for a man to bear the yoke

while he is young. 

In the midst of heavy flares, in the midst of setback after setback, so many days are spent in waiting. Doing leads further into the realms of unending pain. Pushing through pushes progress backward instead of forward. Only through rest, waiting, and patient care can progress be made. And in this we look, desperately search, for the blessing and good to be found in the wait.

Let him sit alone in silence,

for the Lord has laid it on him.

Let him bury his face in the dust –

there may yet be hope. 

The pain and the illness, our lonely and desolate place, is where we come before the Lord broken and needy.  And at our worst, we reach out and see a glimmer of hopeful possibility. The hope is not yet sure, but hopefully possible.

Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him,

and let him be filled with disgrace.

For no one is cast off

by the Lord forever.

Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,

so great is his unfailing love. 

Would the Lord’s compassion even be felt or known without first feeling the sting of his grief? Though our pain, though our illness, strike us and our own bodies attack us and leave us feeling disgraced, even then the Lord is near. Even then the Lord saves. Even then the Lord will not cast off forever. Somehow we grasp hold of faith even when the tangible nature and unfolding outpouring of his love and compassion remain yet unclear.

Hope and faith persist when all is uncertain, when all is confusion. Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed.

 *All italics taken from Lamentations 3


  1. LOVE Lamentations. John Piper has a sermon in which he talks about the poetic structure of Lamentations. Those words of comfort about the Lord’s mercy are in the exact center of a howling cry that has been written with painstaking Hebrew poetic form — I believe an acrostic, with each verse beginning with successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. I love thinking about that, because there is so much help in it for how we come to God with our pain and anger. I’m sure you could find the sermon at Desiring God.org if you have a minute to listen to it. Thanks for reminding me of those great verses.

    1. Thank you – I am going to look for that sermon. So interesting that it is an acrostic – I really did no research and simply wrote as the verses spoke to me and what I experience. But I am interesting in learning more. And I agree, love this book.

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