The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”
The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.
Let him sit alone in silence when it is laid on him; let him put his mouth in the dust—there may yet be hope; let him give his cheek to the one who strikes, and let him be filled with insults.
For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men. Lamentations 3:22-33
Suffering is a common denominator across humanity. Whether a person is born privileged or in poverty, all of us are touched by the fallout of the Fall. Sometimes we would like to think that material wealth is the answer to all earthly problems, but to see the broken relationships, chemical dependence and suicide rates among the “beautiful people,” it’s clear that money alone can only buy the misery one likes the best. There is no escaping suffering, loss and despair by attempting to do so in burying oneself in the comforts of this material world.
It’s easy to get into a place where we blame God for suffering, but it is a non-negotiable condition of living in a fallen world. Sometimes suffering is the result of our own poor choices, and can be used by God to bring us to repentance, but more often than not, suffering is brought about by something outside of our control or ability to prevent.
The reality of suffering is that we are not the ones in control. If it were up to us we would take it all away. If it were up to us we would try to figure out some higher meaning or noble purpose for suffering. Sometimes we can see a purpose for it, but most of the time we are simply left to endure it and keep on wondering why. We are challenged by suffering to simply trust God when we do not understand.
It is encouraging to know that no matter what suffering we must endure as a condition of being a fallen creature that Jesus walks with us in our suffering. We are being tried and prepared for life with God forever. Our bodies will age and decay and wither. We will all know grief and loss. Even so, there will come a day when suffering will end. There is life beyond the limitations of this world.
Jeremiah, the writer of Lamentations, was most familiar with suffering. He was sent to the people of Israel by God as a prophet, set aside to warn the people of God’s impending judgment on them. The people weren’t terribly thrilled with Jeremiah’s message, even throwing him into a cistern to sink into the mud and die. (Jeremiah 38) Nobody likes to hear that they are screwing up and that their screw ups are coming back to bite them.
Yet Jeremiah had hope even though his earthly life was rather bleak and he endured a great deal of persecution and suffering precisely because of his assignment from God. Jeremiah points us to the hope he had in God.
Jesus, too was no stranger to suffering. The prophet Isaiah foresaw His coming as the Suffering Servant. (Isaiah 53:1-5) Jesus knows the suffering of fallen humanity because He shared in it.
God’s mercy is always fresh and new. God is always listening to our prayers, God the Holy Spirit intervenes on our behalf, and in Jesus we have the assurance that He has died to save us from our sins and that we will be made whole and our tears will be wiped away forever (Revelation 21:4.)
We can trust in the compassion of God and know that in Him is comfort and peace, even when our circumstances would argue otherwise.