Our devotions for this week walk us through the entire book of Lamentations. It was written as an expression of sorrow over the exile of Judah and the destruction of the temple by the armies of Babylon in 587BC. We should not assume the reasons for the Jewish exile – collective, national rebellion against the Lord – are the reasons for our current coronavirus pandemic. However, the Lord will undoubtedly use our present suffering to expose sinful idolatry in our hearts. We also know disease and death are ultimately the result of living under the curse of sin in a broken world (Genesis 3). Beyond that, however, we can’t answer the “Why coronavirus?” question. Instead, we look to Lamentations for guidance on how to relate to God in the midst of widespread suffering.

According to the Bible, pain and sorrow are never ends in and of themselves. They are not intrinsically good because they were not part of God’s original design for creation. But pain and sorrow can accomplish great good to the extent that they drive us to relate with our Creator in light of who he has revealed himself to be. 

That’s what makes lamenting different from venting. Venting involved nothing more than getting a few things off your chest by telling God exactly how you feel in the midst of evil and suffering. Lamenting includes telling God honestly how you feel, but it does far more. It takes the reality of our suffering and all the feelings we experience in our suffering and engages with them in light of the character of God and the ways of God. 

According to the Bible, a lament in the midst of suffering involved at least four things: (1) come before God, (2) pour out your complaint, (3) declare your trust in the Lord, (4) ask him to intervene for our good and his glory. In that sense, a biblical lament may be deeply sorrowful, but it’s never sorrow-centered. Biblical lament is always God-centered. 

Monday, March 23
Reading: Lamentations 1

Questions for Reflection:

  1. What specific kinds of loss is the author grieving? What words or phrases capture the distress or anxiety you see in the world around you or in your own life right now?
  2. Look carefully at verses 11 and 20. Who is the author primarily talking to in this chapter?
  3. There are a host of alternative responses to pain or fear besides turning to the Lord in prayer. To which variety are you most vulnerable? Do you tend to ignore, fixate, internalize, or try to push through it?
  4. Follow the author’s example and take a few minutes to describe to the Lord the suffering that people around you are experiencing, as well as the suffering you’re experiencing right now.

Song: O God of Mercy, Hear Our Plea

Tuesday, March 24
Reading: Lamentations 2

Questions for Reflection:

  1. Who is bringing Judah’s suffering to pass in verses 1-9? What does that reveal about who ordains even our most difficult experiences of trouble or sorrow?
  2. How does the reality of God’s sovereign control in verse 17 bring comfort? What sort of hard questions does it raise?
  3. Knowing the Lord reigns even in the midst of national crisis both compels and enables the cry for help in verse 17. Choose a specific group of people you know who are suffering right now and ask the Lord to have mercy on them.
  4. Read Exodus 34:6. Then look back at Lamentations 2:20-22. The perceived gap between who God says he is and what he seems to be doing (or not doing) in the circumstances of our lives is painful. Do you think there’s a difference between pleading for God’s intervention in a situation that seems wrong and accusing him of injustice? Take a few minutes to ask the Lord to bring deliverance and to work justice in your life and those around you in keeping with his character.

Song: I Will Wait For You (Psalm 130)

Wednesday, March 25
Reading: Lamentations 3

Questions for Reflection:

  1. Think about the significance of verse 18. Confessing feelings of utter hopelessness to the Lord can seem scandalous. It feels like you are saying what “good Christians” never say. How is the simple prayer in verse 19 for the Lord to “remember” an expression of genuine faith?
  2. Verse 21 reminds us that we always have a choice, even in the midst of suffering, as to what we will focus or meditate on. How have you experienced the Lord’s steadfast love, mercy, and faithfulness over the course of your life?
  3. Take a few minutes to thank God for being your “portion” (verse 24) – your All-Satisfying Provider – even while you’re still waiting for his provision in different areas of your life.
  4. “Fear not!” is a frequent command in Scripture (verse 57). Write down some of the specific reasons in verses 55-66 why we should not be afraid even in situations where it feels like we are “lost” (verse 54).

Song: He’s Always Been Faithful

Thursday, March 26
Reading: Lamentations 4

Questions for Reflection:

  1. What does verse 1 tell you about the wisdom of placing your hope in financial wealth, whether you have little or much? 
  2. What does verse 2 tell you about the wisdom of trusting other people to deliver you? What does verse 5 tell you about the wisdom of trusting governing officials to deliver you?
  3. What do verses 7-9 tell you about the wisdom of trusting your own power or health to keep you safe?
  4. Consider the weight of the author’s assessment in verse 17. Take a few minutes to confess to the Lord where you have relied on false gods (idols) instead of the Lord to deliver or protect you in times of trouble. Ask the Lord to work a deep conviction in our souls of the futility of trusting in anything or anyone besides him.

Song: Psalm 62

Friday, March 27
Reading: Lamentations 5

  1. Ask the Lord to “remember,” “look,” and “see,” the disgrace and suffering around you and in your own life (verse 1).
  2. Be honest with the Lord about the particular sorrows you’re experiencing, including the ways the coronavirus has impacted various aspects of daily life (verses 2-17).
  3. Think about how good it is to know that the LORD (Yahweh), the covenant-keeping God, reigns forever (verse 19). Think about how so many things in this life that seem reliable and trustworthy do not endure. Praise God for the fact that his kingdom endures.
  4. Pay careful attention to the request in verse 21. Confess to the Lord that what we need the most in every experience of national suffering is not a restoration of the stock-market or even our physical health, but rather a restoration and renewal of our relationship with him. Ask him to draw you closer to him, to make you more like Jesus, in the midst of your suffering – “restore us to yourself.” And at the same time, boldly ask him to restore the earthly blessings we have lost in recent weeks, including the privilege of gathering for worship as the people of God – “renew our days as of old.”

Song: We Look to You

Matthew grew up attending KingsWay and joined the pastoral staff in 2009. God has blessed him and his wife, Aliza, with three rambunctious boys. Matthew did his undergraduate work at the University of Richmond in chemistry and political science, spent a year at the Sovereign Grace Pastor’s College, and received his Masters of Divinity from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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