Longing for Home

Bible Focus: Lamentations

Jerusalem has sinned grievously; therefore, she has become an object of scorn. All who honored her now despise her, for they have seen her nakedness. She herself groans and turns away.

My transgressions have been formed into a yoke, fastened together by his hand; they have been placed on my neck, and the Lord has broken my strength. He has handed me over to those I cannot withstand.

The LORD is just, for I have rebelled against his command. Listen, all you people; look at my pain. My young women and young men have gone into captivity.
Lamentations 1:8,14,18 CSB

My wife Emily and I lead our church’s GriefShare ministry, which focuses on helping people work through the death of a loved one. One key point we make in GriefShare is that we cannot avoid the pain of grief. There are no shortcuts in the grieving process. We must keep facing our loss and keep resolving the intense feelings that are stirred up in those encounters. If we try to avoid the pain of grief today, then it will show up again tomorrow. However, if we stop avoiding our pain and allow ourselves to grieve fully, then we can eventually heal from the pain of grief. We can also continue to honor our relationship with our loved one as we look to move forward with our life.

Of course, there are other kinds of grief besides the death of a loved one, but all grief is a response to loss. We grieve when we have lost something dear to us. Part of that loss involves the knowledge that things can’t go back to the way they were. As we wrestle with that devastating reality, we often face uncomfortable questions about the future. Can we ever be joyful again? Will we ever find peace again? Will we ever feel at home again?

Wrestling with those questions can be painful. However, if we are open to trusting in God, those questions provide an opportunity for us to turn to God and find our ultimate joy and peace in him. If we place our trust in anything related to this current fallen world, then sooner or later that trust will fail. But God will never fail us. Only in God can we forever feel at home.

Only in God can we forever feel at home.

Lamentations is a poem that was written after the Babylonian army destroyed Jerusalem and exiled most of its survivors to Babylon. The poet is not named, but the poem has been traditionally ascribed to the prophet Jeremiah. Lamentations has a very structured format that would have helped the exiles memorize it and pass it along to future generations. The first four chapters of Lamentations follow an acrostic based on the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, with each verse (or verse group) beginning with the next letter in the series.

In the first four chapters, the poet describes the horror of Babylon’s invasion from Jerusalem’s point of view. Most of his lyrics are directed inward, instead of being directed at God. However, the poet frequently acknowledges God and his sovereign control over what had happened. The poet recognizes that God had sent the Babylonians to destroy Jerusalem. He admits that the exiles had rebelled against God, and he agrees that God’s resulting punishment was righteous.

The LORD has done what he planned; he has accomplished his decree, which he ordained in days of old. He has demolished without compassion, letting the enemy gloat over you and exalting the horn of your adversaries.

Who is there who speaks and it happens, unless the Lord has ordained it? Do not both adversity and good come from the mouth of the Most High? Why should any living person complain, any man, because of the punishment for his sins?
Lamentations 2:17, 3:37-39 CSB

But these admissions do not remove the poet’s grief over Jerusalem. He pours out his heart about all the devastation, starvation, and death that the people had suffered. Yet even as he expresses his despair, he holds on to his hope in the faithfulness and goodness of God.

Yet I call this to mind, and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s faithful love we do not perish, for his mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness! I say, “The LORD is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in him.” The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the person who seeks him. It is good to wait quietly for salvation from the LORD.

For the Lord will not reject us forever. Even if he causes suffering, he will show compassion according to the abundance of his faithful love. For he does not enjoy bringing affliction or suffering on mankind.
Lamentations 3:21-26,31-33 CSB

The fifth and final chapter of Lamentations is different from the other chapters. It has 22 verses, but it no longer follows the acrostic, and the entire chapter is a direct prayer to God. The poet pleads with God to remember his people. He urges God to take note of their suffering and respond to their cry for help. But he also considers the possibility that God’s wrath is unsatisfied and God’s rejection of them is complete. The final words of Lamentations end on this note of agonized doubt.

LORD, bring us back to yourself, so we may return; renew our days as in former times, unless you have completely rejected us and are intensely angry with us.
Lamentations 5:21-22 CSB

Make no mistake, our sin is a serious thing. Any sin is a just cause for God’s anger. But here’s the good news: God’s wrath on all our sin was completely satisfied in Jesus’s death on the cross. If we are trusting in Jesus, then we don’t ever have to wonder if our sins will separate us from him.

In this current fallen world, we are prone to fall into sin, and our sin always has consequences. But once we recognize our sin and turn back to God, he will renew our relationship with him. If we belong to Jesus, then we can always go back home.

Featured image from Justin Wilkens on Unsplash.

If you like this post, I hope you’ll check out my book. It’s available at Amazon and other booksellers.

This post is #45 in the Truly Good Book series. Sign up here for future posts.

1 thought on “Longing for Home

  1. Oh, thank you so much. “ If we belong to Jesus, then we can always go back home.”
    That thought conveys immeasurable peace.

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