Lord, I bow down before You and acknowledge that it is only by grace that I have hope to stand before You.
Read Lamentations 3:1-66
 I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of the LORD’s wrath.  He has driven me away and made me walk in darkness rather than light;  indeed, he has turned his hand against me again and again, all day long.  He has made my skin and my flesh grow old and has broken my bones.  He has besieged me and surrounded me with bitterness and hardship.  He has made me dwell in darkness like those long dead.  He has walled me in so I cannot escape; he has weighed me down with chains.  Even when I call out or cry for help, he shuts out my prayer.  He has barred my way with blocks of stone; he has made my paths crooked.  Like a bear lying in wait, like a lion in hiding,  he dragged me from the path and mangled me and left me without help.  He drew his bow and made me the target for his arrows.  He pierced my heart with arrows from his quiver.  I became the laughingstock of all my people; they mock me in song all day long.  He has filled me with bitter herbs and given me gall to drink.  He has broken my teeth with gravel; he has trampled me in the dust.  I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity is.  So I say, “My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the LORD.”  I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.  I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.  Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:  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.”  The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him;  it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.  It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young.  Let him sit alone in silence, for the LORD has laid it on him.  Let him bury his face in the dust- there may yet be hope.  Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him, and let him be filled with disgrace.  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.  To crush underfoot all prisoners in the land,  to deny people their rights before the Most High,  to deprive them of justice- would not the Lord see such things?  Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it?  Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?  Why should the living complain when punished for their sins?  Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the LORD.  Let us lift up our hearts and our hands to God in heaven, and say:  “We have sinned and rebelled and you have not forgiven.  “You have covered yourself with anger and pursued us; you have slain without pity.  You have covered yourself with a cloud so that no prayer can get through.  You have made us scum and refuse among the nations.  “All our enemies have opened their mouths wide against us.  We have suffered terror and pitfalls, ruin and destruction.”  Streams of tears flow from my eyes because my people are destroyed.  My eyes will flow unceasingly, without relief,  until the LORD looks down from heaven and sees.  What I see brings grief to my soul because of all the women of my city.  Those who were my enemies without cause hunted me like a bird.  They tried to end my life in a pit and threw stones at me;  the waters closed over my head, and I thought I was about to perish.  I called on your name, LORD, from the depths of the pit.  You heard my plea: “Do not close your ears to my cry for relief.”  You came near when I called you, and you said, “Do not fear.”  You, Lord, took up my case; you redeemed my life.  LORD, you have seen the wrong done to me. Uphold my cause!  You have seen the depth of their vengeance, all their plots against me.  LORD, you have heard their insults, all their plots against me-  what my enemies whisper and mutter against me all day long.  Look at them! Sitting or standing, they mock me in their songs.  Pay them back what they deserve, LORD, for what their hands have done.  Put a veil over their hearts, and may your curse be on them!  Pursue them in anger and destroy them from under the heavens of the LORD. Scripture taken from the THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, NIV Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
ReflectHow does the writer turn his focus?
There’s more of the same today: affliction (1), darkness (2), a feeling of being walled in and weighed down (7). Then suddenly it all changes. Verse 19 onwards must be one of the most amazing turning points in the Bible. Amongst all the horror he has witnessed the writer calls to mind love, compassion and faithfulness. Suddenly he has hope. The idea that God has deliberately brought an punishment on his people troubles our sensibilities. But, ironically, it is in this fact that the author finds hope. If Israel’s fate had only been in the hands of the Babylonians there might have been no end to the carnage. But with God, there is hope for a limit because of God’s righteousness, his faithfulness and his compassion. Indeed, his very nature is such that “he does not willingly bring affliction” (33). Though answers do not come quickly, the writer will go on weeping and praying until God answers his prayers and until the situation is redeemed. He recalls times in the past when God has heard him and responded to his prayer, and this encourages him to continue to plead with God (55-60).
Take account of the ways in which God has shown You mercy when you deserved otherwise.
Lord, give me hope in the dark days of my life! Help me to cling to the truth of who You are.
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