God's judgment on Israel brought personal affliction to Jeremiah. Men were persecuting him and laughing at him (vs. 1, 14). It left him feeling forsaken and in a dark place (vs. 2, 6). He feels trapped (vs. 5, 7, 9) and begins believing God must be against him as well. (vs. 3, 10,12). He is full of hurt and bitterness (vs. 4, 11, 13, 15, 16), feeling completely cut off, even from prayer (vs. 8, 19, 44).
Sounds depressing, doesn't it? But we've probably all been there at one time or another. Yet, amid Jeremiah's woeful lamentation, he reveals a way through and a secret about how to face enduring deep trials. Have a look with me.
In verses 18-21, he says, "And I said, My strength and my hope is perished from the Lord: Remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall. My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me. This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope."
What? Thinking about his desperate circumstance brought him hope? Yes! Jeremiah doesn't deny things are bad. He is in a tough spot, but he shifts his focus. That word "recall" means "make to return to my heart." Instead of lamenting his situation, he begins thinking about the Lord and looking at his trial from a purposeful prospect that creates hope in his heart.
Look at what he recites. Remember the Lord. Trust in His goodness, His promises (vs. 22-33). And what are they? Mercy, in verse 22. Faithfulness, in verse 23. God's provision, in verse 24, and goodness, in verse 25. Jeremiah knows the consistent characteristics of God. He experienced them in the past and knew them to be still true. Long, heavy trials do not change God.
Now, he begins to speak into his situation. (Ephesians 5:19, 20 instructs us to do the same.) Be humble, he says in verse 20. My soul---is humbled in me." Wait on God, he tells himself in verse 26. "It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord." Jeremiah knows learning to wait is an appointed lesson from God.
Learning to bear heaviness is good for spiritual growth (vs. 27). "It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth." This too will pass (vs. 31). "For the Lord will not cast off for ever."
God will give compassion and mercy (vs. 32-33). "But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies. For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men." It probably hurt God more than it hurt Jeremiah, yet God knows the importance of teaching His children to trust Him more fully and grow in faith. There is purpose in Jeremiah's trial, as with ours.
Jeremiah concludes with repentance and praise, "Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord. Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto the God in the heaven." (Lamentations 3:40, 41).
What did he do next? "I called upon thy name, O Lord, out of the low dungeon" (Lamentations 3:55). Even though he felt very low, he prayed anyway. He chose to act by faith instead of drowning in his emotions. That is a good lesson for us.
Did he find help? Yes! God spoke to his need. "Thou drewest near in the day that I called upon thee! Thou saidst, Fear not"(Lamentations 3:57).
You might think Jeremiah's plight changed overnight. That's what we would expect, but it didn't. His trial was not yet complete. But, by looking to the Lord, recognizing God's goodness, and confessing his dependence, he found the surest way to endure troublesome times and found Light at the end of the tunnel.
We, too, may be lamenting our circumstances, but there is so much to learn from Jeremiah's situation. Let's begin by rehearsing God's truth to ourselves and holding onto the exceeding great and precious promises of God's word. Let's not forget the promises right here in Lamentations 3:22-23, It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness."
God knows right where we are. He will bring us through much stronger and prepared to give Him the praise due to His name if we faithfully wait on Him - even in the dungeon.