Yesterday we saw that God’s faithfulness is not something God simply talks about or occasionally displays. It is who He is. It’s His character. We read Psalm 25:10 which says, “All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.” (Emphasis added)
But our reading today was written from a place of deep suffering, and even horror. God’s holy city, Jerusalem, had been trampled, desecrated, and destroyed by a vicious enemy. It had been overrun by starvation and suffering. Young, old, male, and female, were all slaughtered indiscriminately and left lying in the streets with not an ounce of pity. That was the reality which surrounded the man who wrote Lamentations. That was the trouble he remembered and couldn’t forget.
It was no small thing to have seared into your memory. But the emotional suffering of the writer, had to have been almost as great as the physical suffering that surrounded him. Because the people lying dead in the streets were people who’d been the recipients of great promises from God Himself. Promises of security and belonging and purpose.
How do you reconcile what you’ve been told, when it contradicts with what you see?
We may not have experienced the same degree of devastation as the writer of Lamentations, but most of us have some pain or disappointment seared into our memories. Some experience that contradicts expectation. I sometimes wonder if this contradiction is harder for Christians? For people who carry God’s name and live in faith under His promises?
Suffering could lead a person to read a verse like Psalm 25:10 and say, all the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness? Really? That’s not my experience. And if you’re just going to blame that on the fact that I haven’t followed God’s covenant rules perfectly, that’s not fair, or nice. I’m not interested in that kind of God. I don’t trust that kind of God.
If God’s glory is His goodness, and if God can be relied upon to be faithful to who He is, what do we do about the problem of pain?
Do we blame Him, because, though He’s powerful, He does nothing to stop it so that must mean He doesn’t care? Or, do we take Him off the hook, because we believe He cares, but we don’t believe He’s powerful enough to deal with it?
The author of Lamentations does neither. Surrounded by the memory of recent horror, he brings up another memory. A memory that shines hope into despair. He remembers the faithfulness of God. The fact that God’s steadfast love will never come to an end. It is new every morning. A sufferer finds hope as he remembers who God is. He finds hope in God Himself and in waiting for the salvation of God.
The problem of pain is, in part, that it’s inescapable. Does that fact undermine who God is?
That question may be the most difficult one humanity must answer. If there’s no God then all is random chance, and nothing, especially not suffering, has a point. But if there is a God, is He good and can we trust Him? In his book, If God is Good, Randy Alcorn says that when life is bad, Satan whispers, “God is in control of everything. Life is bad. God must be bad, too.” Those thoughts have led potentially well-meaning people to defend God by saying that the problem of pain lies with the sufferer—it’s their fault, God is punishing them. Jesus doesn’t say that—in fact He flat out contradicts that line of reasoning. (Luke 13:1-5)
The truth is, the Bible doesn’t provide an easy answer to suffering.
We don’t see an easy answer in God’s word, but we do see a beautiful comfort. Those who suffer are not alone. God has responded to suffering by entering into it Himself. Experiencing it Himself. And He has written the final word on suffering by promising to wipe away our tears with His very own hand.
That is the character of the infinite God who calls finite people to trust in His faithfulness.
This is the God who calls us to lift up our eyes to see who He is, and who gives us a glimpse of the eternally big picture. And that is how faithful men and women through the ages have answered the lie of the devil: with the truth of Scripture! Life may be bad, but God is good. He has been and will continue to be faithful to His word. Not one word of His promises will fail.