What to do about suffering

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Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,

    for his compassions never fail.

They are new every morning;

    great is your faithfulness.

I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;

    therefore I will wait for him.” (Lamentations. 3:22-24)

 

For no one is cast off

    by the Lord forever.

Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,

    so great is his unfailing love.

For he does not willingly bring affliction

    or grief to anyone.  (Lamentations 3:31-33)

Lamentations is a book of suffering. It is a collection of poems of lament over the destruction of Jerusalem and the children of Israel being led into captivity by the Babylonians — something God allowed to happen because of their disobedience in going after other gods. It was God’s last resort. Repeatedly He warned them and tried to get them to repent and turn back to Him, but nothing doing, so He finally had to use the Babylonians to punish them. You could say He got their attention, and the poems in this book are a chronicle of their suffering experience.

Lamentations is in our Bibles because we suffer too. Suffering is a part of life. It may not always be tied to sin and disobedience as it was here, but this is not about figuring out anything about suffering. It’s not about why we suffer, nor is it about getting out of suffering; it’s about experiencing suffering and getting through it.

There is a sacred dignity to human suffering. It aligns us with what is true about ourselves and about God. It teaches us humility. It teaches us trust. And in the third chapter of these Lamentations, we find the only hopeful part of this whole book. This is where the prophet reminds himself about God’s lovingkindness, His faithfulness, His compassion, and about the fact that God doesn’t get any kicks out of bringing affliction or grief to anyone. He does not do this willingly, but because it is part of the laws of the universe He Himself created. And His compassion will win out in the end. “For no one is cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love.” (3:32)

We are going through a time of suffering now due to this pandemic. If we follow the example of the prophets and the poets of Israel, we will find out what to do.

  1. Agree with God and everyone else that this sucks.
  2. Cry out to God.
  3. Remind ourselves of God’s faithfulness and lovingkindness regardless of what we are going through.
  4. Wait patiently.

“I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.’” (3:24)

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2 Responses to What to do about suffering

  1. John A Fagliano says:

    I don’t think that most of us are “suffering” at all. Unless you consider the absence of paper products and disinfectants on the shelves, having to wear a mask and stay six feet apart, waiting outside to get into a store and having to stay home most of the time “suffering”. At worst these things are mere reminders that there are others truly suffering. Those mourning the loss of any one of 231,000 people world wide. Those lying in hospitals fighting for their lives. Their loved ones praying for them from a distance but unable to touch them. And the medical professionals who are exhausted but working tirelessly while fearing for their own safety. Yes, suffering is happening and the rest of us need to stop complaining. We need faith. We need to put others first. We need to be prayer warriors.(certainly something to do with all that extra time.) And most of all to stop the blame game and all the judging. Whether it be the Chinese Government, USA Government, (The President, Governors, etc..) Or the media, or whoever we think God must be trying to punish with this pandemic (usually some people other than us) Instead we should remember that the words of Lamentations refers to all of the above.

    Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
    so great is his unfailing love.

    for his compassions never fail.

    For no one is cast off
    by the Lord forever.

    Amen!

  2. jwfisch says:

    You are so right to point out those who are truly suffering. However, we all suffer at different levels and different times for different things, and none of us can judge or compare as to whether anyone’s suffering is legitimate. We don’t really know what anyone is truly going through.The truth remains the same for everyone.

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