The Pit of Despair

By Kim Jaquish

I think the book of Lamentations really gets a bad rap. Like if you are sitting in a group, ready for Bible study and the leader says to open to Philippians, people cheer, but oh that poor soul who dares to lead a study on Lamentations! You can hear the moaning and suppressed sighs from the back of the room. It's just generally regarded as a debby-downer book of the Bible.

But, secretly, it's one of my very favorite books. And it's all because of chapter 3. I mean, it's true, the book IS very real and raw and can be downright depressing because the author is mourning Israel's sin, God's judgement, and the tragedy of Jerusalem's destruction. It's not a fun or peppy idea. (Hence the title. What did you expect?)

In chapter 3 we read:

'He has made my teeth grind on gravel,
and made me cower in ashes;
my soul is bereft of peace;
I have forgotten what happiness is;
so I say, “My endurance has perished;
so has my hope from the Lord.”
Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
the wormwood and the gall!
My soul continually remembers it
and is bowed down within me.'

I wrote in my Bible next to those verses, "At. The. Bottom." It just seems that a person can't really get any lower than that. To have forgotten what happiness is and not have any hope. And you know what? I have an inkling of what that feels like. Not to the extent that this prophet did or that some others do, but I've been there folks. When you feel like you are in the Pit of Despair from the Princess Bride. (And if you haven't seen that movie, go educate yourself.)

You know what gets me through those times? The very next verses:

'But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
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.'

You see, this person knew suffering, he knew depression, hurt, and anguish. BUT he knew the solution to that as well. He knew where his hope was found and he knew that sometimes, he needed to call that up and simply remind himself.

Friends, that's exactly what I do. I turn to this page so much, practically the whole chapter is underlined in my Bible. I have to remind myself that God IS enough, he IS my only hope, and I need to WAIT (gosh that can be hard, huh?) for him.

So if you're looking for a good book to settle in, maybe pick up Lamentations for a change. But don't just snatch out all the good "coffee-cup" verses that you like. The beauty of those promises is utterly lost when you take them out of context! If you don't see everything leading up to the "nice" verse, you aren't getting the full picture. Really try to read through the author's eyes and understand what an amazing and faithful God we have.

Lee Jones