The Bible’s pity party. It has to be here. Pain, suffering and the expression of it are part of the universe God made. They were in the story of the Son of God before creation, as was victory.
16 books of prophesy warned there were terrible consequences coming for disobeying God. Well here they are. Not only what happened, per Kings and Chronicles, but how awful it felt, what it was like to live through.
So it’s an acknowledgement that our lives can be really bad, and permission to tell God and the world how you feel.
Jesus’ disciples didn’t understand when he said he would suffer cruelly, and die. And then when it happened, they were bereft and hopeless. Clearly they hadn’t paid enough attention to this book.
In the centre of it, middle of chapter 3, boom: hope. Nothing around it supports the conclusion; hope blindsides the reported experience. It’s an irrational result of your understanding of God’s character.
At the end of each chapter is a reference to the enemies, who aided or enjoyed the fall of Israel. Thinking about their comeuppance is something of a comfort to the writer I’m sure, in a simple way.
But it also sets up the limits of lament. It’s still better to know God, even if things are really bad, than to be without God.
The writer never considers there may not be a God, as close as it gets is fearing what it would be like if God’s stayed angry forever, a chill for the bleak last verse.
The writer accepts that their downfall is a result of their own disobedience. It does suggest once that maybe they are being punished for the sins of their parents. But the dominant idea is that God has woven a yoke out of their own sin and placed it on them. God is, for once, not shielding them from the deserved result of their despising of him.
I had my own pity party while reading this book, learning that, too old and too tired to handle it, I was being made redundant in my job for the third time in my life.
It’s helping me give due to the grief I feel, even while being aware that others have suffered so much worse. It’s helping me think constructively about the differences between lament and self destructiveness, to be as honest as I can about my temptations as well as my pain to God through this time.
1 Grieving but not grievance. While lamenting loss, the author accepts it is a yoke made of their own sin
2 recoiling from the horror of what God has done, and turning to God to vent their emotion. God God God, nowhere else to turn for his creations
3 The beauty and challenge of finding hope, new every morning, at the centre of this short book. Feeling sorry for myself, because I have lost my job, I worry at what point lament becomes hopelessness, the rejection of God
4 Observing the Israelite’s inability to care about even their own children. The only comfort is that it might end. The mention of enemies at the end of the chapter is not gloating, but an affirmation that despite everything it is still better to be with God than without God
5 the only chapter that is not an alphabet acrostic, increasing the sense of decent into chaos. The greater pattern of scripture was a paradigm shift towards a different, greater revelation of God’s grace, bigger than the restoration they plead for here