Lamentations give God’s people a practical theology for living in a world filled with pain and hardship. Understanding the role of ‘lament’ in the Christian life wasn’t something I grasped until seminary. For the first time in my life, I had a new category for living in the easier-said-than-done tension of experiencing profound loss and suffering, while at the same time, believing the LORD when he says that hope, not despair, has the final word.
The structure of Lamentations 3 describes this exact tension as the author begins by vividly describing how God’s people have suffered because of their sin (v.v. 1-18) and then how he has regained hope (v.v.19-24) as he remembered the LORD’s character and commitment to his people. In the final half of the lament (v.v.40-66), the author moves towards urging others not despair but pray to the God of Hope for Jerusalem’s restoration.