Lamentations in Lent

by Mark Roberts
Senior Strategist
Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership

© Copyright 2022 De Pree Center. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

Part 1: Lamentations in Lent (Lamentations 1:1-2)
Part 2: Yes, Life is Hard (Lamentations 1:3)
Part 3: Does God Make Us Suffer? (Lamentations 1:5)
Part 4: Whose Sins Should We Confess? (Lamentations 1:5,8)
Part 5: Permission to Grieve (Lamentations 1:21)
Part 6: Here’s a Wild Ride! (Lamentations 3:16-23)
Part 7: Great is Thy Faithfulness (Lamentations 3:19-23)
Part 8: Trusting God in Suffering (Lamentations 3:19-23)
Part 9: Meeting Jesus in Our Suffering (Lamentations 3:19-23)
Part 10: Sharing Your Suffering with Others (Lamentations 3:40-41)
Part 11: Being Honest with God in Prayer (Lamentations 3:40-41)
Part 12: Messianic Hope and Deep Disappointment (Lamentations 4:20)
Part 13: Asking the “Why?” Question (Lamentations 5:19-20)
Part 14: Restore Us, Lord, to Yourself! A Devotion for Good Friday (Lamentations 5:21-22)

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Part 1: Lamentations in Lent

Scripture – Lamentations 1:1-2 (NRSV)

How lonely sits the city
+++that once was full of people!
How like a widow she has become,
+++she that was great among the nations!
She that was a princess among the provinces
+++has become a vassal.
She weeps bitterly in the night,
+++with tears on her cheeks;
among all her lovers
+++she has no one to comfort her;
all her friends have dealt treacherously with her,
+++they have become her enemies.


The Old Testament book of Lamentations invites us to pay attention to the grief of others, to open our hearts to those who suffer. It also summons us to attend to our own sorrows and to express them freely in prayer. God wants to hear what is real in our lives, including our struggles and disappointments. The book of Lamentations deepens our experience of Lent by encouraging us to grow in the freedom to share all that we are with God.

Today’s devotion is part of the series Lamentations in Lent.


How do you respond when you see someone grieving? How do you react when you hear someone crying out to God in pain?

I respond in various and often contradictory ways to the grief of others. On the one hand, when someone is weeping, part of me wants to turn away, to allow that mourner to grieve in private. On the other hand, I can find myself strangely curious. For example, when the evening news televises an interview with a mother of a young man who was killed because of racial hatred, part of me wants to denounce the media for intruding into the private life of a devastated family. Yet, at the same time, I watch with curiosity. It’s not that I want to see people in pain. But there is something in me that connects with them, something that aches to feel along with them.

The biblical book of Lamentations invites us to eavesdrop on the grief of others. This book is filled with more pain and sorrow per chapter than any other book of the Bible. Many of the laments express the sorrow of a nation and a city. They are the corporate response of God’s people to the conquering of Judah and the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon in 587 BC. Lamentations 3 features the sorrow of an unknown individual, as this person takes personally what happened to the nation. (Authorship of Lamentations has sometimes been attributed to the prophet Jeremiah, though the book is actually anonymous, with little indication of the actual author.)

The word “lamentation,” by the way, means “a passionate expression of grief or sorrow, weeping” (Oxford Dictionary of English, 2010). It comes from the Latin word lamenta, which has this same meaning. The Latin Bible called this biblical book lamenta for reasons that will soon become obvious. It is filled with laments, that is, with cries of pain and anguish, with sorrow and weeping, all directed at God.

The fact that Lamentations appears in the canon of holy Scripture means that God wants us to take it seriously. This is not a time to turn our heads away from those who mourn. Rather, we are to pay close attention to their experiences, words, and feelings. We are to enter into their distress and join them in wrestling with the theological implications of suffering. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that we’re to join them in wrestling with the God who allows and, according to Lamentations, who sometimes causes suffering.

Lamentations invites us to attend and join in the grieving of others. In a day when so many people in our world are suffering, whether as victims of war or oppression, of racial injustice or disease, of hunger or loneliness, we need to learn how to lament with and for them.

Yet, Lamentations isn’t only a summons to share in the grief of others. It is also an invitation for us to get in touch with the pains and uncertainties in our own lives. Lamentations is not a book of comfort. It doesn’t offer “chicken soup for the soul.” If anything, it stirs up difficult feelings and challenging thoughts. Yet, these are feelings and thoughts God wants us to embrace. The example of Lamentations teaches us to experience new freedom as we share with God everything in our lives, including the sorrows that can feel unutterable.

A study of Lamentations is particularly fitting for Lent for several reasons. The poetic prayers of this book illustrate graphically the reality that we are from dust, and to dust we will return, a fundamental Ash Wednesday and Lenten theme. Lamentations helps us grapple with the brokenness of the world as well as our own personal brokenness. It encourages us to bring our whole selves before God, the good, the bad, and the ugly (not that God sees us as ugly, mind you, but that’s how we can feel about ourselves). Lamentations also gives us words to pray as we come to Holy Week, including a verse that is often used in worship services on Good Friday.

Because our Lord is one who was acquainted with grief, because he knew what it was like to cry out to God in pain, “Why?”, because he had compassion for those who suffer, a Lenten study of Lamentations helps us draw near to Jesus. It weakens our pretense of self-sufficiency and reminds us of just how much we need a Savior, one whose steadfast love for us never ceases.

So, I invite you to join me in this three-week devotional study of Lamentations. As you do, I pray that God’s grace will touch you in new ways. Perhaps you’ll be able to exercise new empathy for those who suffer. Perhaps you’ll find new freedom to talk with God about the pain in your own life. Perhaps you’ll feel a new closeness with Jesus as he approaches the cross. No matter what God has in store for you, let me encourage you to be open and willing.


How do you respond when you observe someone grieving?

How free are you to express your lamentations to God? Why do you think this is the case?

When you read that we’re going to do a three-week study of Lamentations, how do you respond? Are you intrigued? Eager? Reticent? Disappointed? Or???  Why do you respond this way?


The book of Lamentations has five chapters. If you are able, read the whole book through once. If you don’t have time for this, at least try to read the first chapter.


Gracious God, to be honest – and it’s always a good idea to be honest with you – there is part of me that’s not thrilled about doing a devotional study of Lamentations. A big part of me would prefer something like Philippians, a book filled with joy. But Lamentations is in the Bible, your inspired Word, your Word for your people, your Word for me. So, I trust that you want to speak to me as I work through this book. Give me ears to hear you, Lord, and a heart open to your Spirit.

Help me, I pray, to attend, not only to the book of Lamentations, but also to the grief and laments of others. May I not close my heart to those who are in pain. Rather, my I feel genuine empathy and join them in their cries to you for justice and deliverance.

As I open my heart to the grief of others, may I also be set free to share with you all that’s in my heart. If I have been holding back in my own lamentation, help me, gracious God, to discover new freedom in my prayers.

Finally, I ask that this devotional series help prepare me – and all the readers of Life for Leaders – for a truer, deeper, and more transformational experience of Holy Week, Good Friday, and Easter. Amen.

Part 2: Yes, Life is Hard

Scripture – Lamentations 1:3 (NRSV)

Judah has gone into exile with suffering
+++and hard servitude;
she lives now among the nations,
+++and finds no resting place;
her pursuers have all overtaken her
+++in the midst of her distress.


Life is hard. That’s true. All of us experience occasional difficulties and pains. Many in our world know suffering each and every day. The biblical book of Lamentations recognizes the hardness of life. Yet, when we read it in the context of the whole of Scripture, we learn to acknowledge life’s pains while at the same time looking forward with hope to God’s future.

Today’s devotion is part of the series Lamentations in Lent.


Several years ago, I kept running into the unhappy thought: Life is hard, and then you die. For some reason, this saying showed up on bumper stickers, t-shirts, and other places where platitudes flourish. In fact, you can go online and buy a cheery mug featuring this saying. I’m not quite sure why the saying became so popular, though I suppose it was an ironic response to the naïve idealism that dominated much of our culture in the late 20th century.

The book of Lamentations might very well agree with those who affirm, “Life is hard, and then you die.” At least the “life is hard” part. The hardness of life was especially apparent to the Jews in the first part of the sixth century B.C. As Babylon asserted its superior power over Judah, the Jews experienced suffering, hard service, and exile. Separated from their homeland, they struggled simply to remain alive. As Lamentations 1:3 puts it, as a scattered people, they found no rest.

In our world, life is hard for everyone at one time or another—though it’s certainly hard for those whose experience is like that of the ancient Jews. People who live under political oppression feel the punishing reality of life each day.

Life may be even harder for exiles, such as those who have fled from Ukraine, who find themselves unwelcome and impoverished in the places where they dwell without a home. Yet the hardness of life isn’t simply a result of political oppression, violence, and injustice. In fact, the theological root of life’s difficulties can be found in the opening chapters of Genesis. There we learn that God created the world fully good, as a place where human beings could flourish. Yet they rejected God and his ways. As a result, life became hard. Women still gave birth, but in extreme pain. Men still worked the soil, but with frustration and discomfort as they battled thorns, thistles, and other hardships. Life is hard, not because God intended it that way from the beginning, but because hardness goes hand in hand with sin.

Those of us who live privileged lives may sometimes assume that life isn’t hard. When painful things come my way, I am sometimes surprised in addition to chagrined. I know there are challenges in life, but I don’t really think of life as being consistently hard. Yet, when I pay attention to the experiences of people across the globe, when I let myself hear their cries for justice, peace, and rest, when I watch the suffering so many people must endure, I’m reminded of the fact that life is hard and that I am incredibly blessed to live with so little suffering.

Biblically-informed people should not be surprised when life is hard. Lamentations is one of many biblical books that underscores the difficulties we face on this earth. Yet, as Christians, we should not live with resignation. We could put a bumper sticker on our car that began with “Life is hard.” But our sticker would have to be a little longer that the usual one. It might say: Life is hard, and, yes, you will die. But, in the meanwhile, God is redeeming this world and you get to share in that redemption through Christ. Yes, life will still be hard, but God will be with you, and then you will die . . . and then you will live forever in the new heaven and the new earth.

Chapter 1 of Lamentations doesn’t reveal this kind of hope for the future, of course. But when we read it in the context of the whole of Scripture, when we see the hardness of life in light of God’s whole story of redemption and restoration, then we are able to acknowledge the hardness of life without hesitation, while at the same time looking forward to the blessings of God’s future.


Why do you think the “Life is hard” saying became so popular?

What does this tell us about our culture?

If life is hard, what keeps us from falling into a pit of resignation?

What gives you hope when your life is hard?


Read a news story about the experiences of exiles from Ukraine and the hardness of their lives.


Gracious God, yes, life is hard. Sometimes the hardness of life is acute and obvious, when people are oppressed or exiled, or when we suffer with sickness and sadness, or when we face poverty and desperation. But even in the good times – and for these we give thanks – there are still reminders of life’s difficulties.

O God, I know you didn’t mean for life to be this way. I see in Scripture the sorry story of our sin, as well as the good news of your salvation. I am encouraged by the reality of the new creation. One day, you will mend that which has been broken.

In the meanwhile, help us to endure life’s hardships with patience and hope. Keep us from resignation and defeat. May we never be surprised when life is hard, and may we never cease praying for your kingdom to come and your will to be done on earth. Furthermore, help us to pay attention to the sufferings of others, whether they be people we know personally or folks living across the globe.

O Lord, let us be instruments of your peace, love, and justice, so that all may catch glimpses of your coming kingdom. Amen.

Part 3: Does God Make Us Suffer?

Scripture – Lamentations 1:5 (NRSV)

Her foes have become the masters,
+++her enemies prosper,
because the LORD has made her suffer
+++for the multitude of her transgressions;
her children have gone away,
+++captives before the foe.


Some Christians are quick to pronounce God’s judgment on victims of suffering. While it is true, according to Lamentations, that God sometimes causes people to suffer as an exercise of divine discipline, we would do well not to throw around our opinions about when this is happening to others. Moreover, when we are going through hard times, Lamentations encourages us to tell God all about it without holding back. Though God’s ways are often hard to understand, God’s love for us is utterly reliable.

Today’s devotion is part of the series Lamentations in Lent.


Every now and then, I find myself deeply unsettled and offended by the pronouncements of judgment offered by certain public Christian figures. Most often, this happens in the wake of some terrible natural disaster. Even before the hurricane flooding has fully subsided or the earthquake aftershocks have ceased, we’ll start hearing self-righteous explanations that point to God’s judgment. Inevitably, I’ll feel embarrassed to be associated with the proud pundits who bear the name of Christ.

Now here’s the shocker. We see something very much like this in Lamentations. Consider this verse: “[Judah’s] foes have become the masters, her enemies prosper, because the LORD has made her suffer for the multitude of her transgressions; her children have gone away, captives before the foe” (1:5, emphasis added). Ouch! What are we supposed to do with this sort of claim when it’s right there in Scripture? Does this mean that those who utter such pronouncements of judgment today are standing on solid theological ground?

The translation of 1:5 is sound. The crucial phrase could be translated literally as, “The Lord afflicted her on account of her many transgressions.” The author of Lamentations clearly states that God caused Israel’s grief. Therefore, since this statement appears in Scripture, I accept it as true, no matter how I might at first feel about it. This text, among many others in the Bible, asserts that God sometimes causes suffering as a way of disciplining God’s own people.

Yet, this does not permit us to start explaining natural disasters and other tragedies as acts of divine judgment. For one thing, God clearly and unambiguously warned Judah in advance of what would happen if they rejected God and God’s justice, turning to other gods (see, for example, Deuteronomy 28). Even apart from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the author of Lamentations could have known from Scripture exactly why Judah was suffering. Moreover, God had repeatedly sent prophets to warn the people and to urge them to be faithful. When their sin prevailed, God followed through on what had been promised centuries earlier.

So, those who claim to explain tragedies as acts of divine judgment are treading on perilously thin theological ice. They run the risk of attributing to God that which God has not done, thus blaspheming the Lord while turning many away from God. Moreover, they easily obscure the good news of God’s grace and love.

Thus, I would strongly urge Christians, including me, to judiciously avoid making pronouncements of divine judgment upon others when bad things happen to them. Yet, if we’re going to be people shaped by Scripture, we need to be open to the possibility that God will use suffering to guide, mature, and shape us. Suffering often helps us grow more than we do when life is easy. I’ll say more about this tomorrow.

In the meanwhile, let me encourage you to consider the following questions.


How do you react when you hear Christians explaining natural disasters as acts of divine judgment?

Do you think God ever uses suffering to discipline us? Why or why not?

Can you think of a time when God used suffering in your life to help you grow? If so, what happened?


Pray for people in our world who are suffering today, with as much specificity as you can muster.


Gracious God, there are and will always be things about you I don’t understand, perhaps even things I don’t especially like. I must admit that I struggle with the idea that you caused the suffering of Judah. I don’t like thinking about this. Yet, I am challenged by your Word to see you as you have revealed yourself. Yes, you are a God of love. You are Love, indeed. Yet you are also a God of justice, a God whose word is trustworthy, a God who cannot tolerate sin.

You are also a God of amazing grace. How I thank you that you have carried our sickness and sorrows, taking them upon yourself in Christ. How grateful I am that you suffered in Christ for the sins of the world, including me.

Help me, dear Lord, to grow into a deeper knowledge of who you are, into a deeper experience of you, and into a deeper relationship with you. I pray in the name of Jesus, my Savior. Amen.

Part 4: Whose Sins Should We Confess?

Scripture – Lamentations 1:5, 8 (NRSV)

Her foes have become the masters,
+++her enemies prosper,
because the LORD has made her suffer
+++for the multitude of her transgressions;
her children have gone away,
+++captives before the foe. . . .
Jerusalem sinned grievously,
+++so she has become a mockery;
all who honored her despise her,
+++for they have seen her nakedness;
she herself groans,
+++and turns her face away.


Though some are quick to point fingers of judgment at others, Scripture teaches us to attend to our own failures and shortcomings. By being fully honest with God about our sins, we are able to experience the forgiveness that comes through Jesus Christ.

Today’s devotion is part of the series Lamentations in Lent.


In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, I began to consider the implications of a portion of Lamentations 1:5: “[The] LORD has made [Judah] suffer for the multitude of her transgressions.” I noted that Scripture teaches, in this verse and others, the unsettling truth that God does at times bring pain into our lives. But I strongly warned us not to start pronouncing judgment on others in light of this fact.

For one thing, we are on dangerous ground when we pronounce judgment on others as if we are free from guilt ourselves. If we read Jeremiah 1:5 out of context, it might sound as if the writer is standing back from the grief of Judah. Yet, the rest of the book makes it abundantly clear that the writer is sharing fully in the suffering and sin of his people. He might just as well have written, “The Lord made us suffer, including me, for the multitude of our transgressions.”

This is part of what concerns me when Christian pundits purport to identify God’s judgment on others while completely ignoring what God might be saying to them. Occasionally in Scripture God speaks through the prophets to judge the nations. But, in the vast majority of cases, the prophets pronounce judgment upon the people of which they are a part. They proclaim God’s judgment on us, not them.

These days, it’s easy to point pious fingers at the sins of others. Ironically, I suppose, I do this most often when judging those who pronounce God’s judgment on others. (Hmmm. What do I have to learn here?) Yet, I must ask myself how open I am to receiving God’s judgment of my sin and the sin of my people, the church. Am I willing to be admonished by God’s Word in Scripture? Am I open to the possibility that God is using painful things in my life to help me grow in my faith?

During the season of Lent, I am reflecting each day on a portion of Scripture in which the acknowledgment of sin is a major theme. Psalm 51 begins in this way:

Have mercy on me, O God,
+++according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
+++blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
+++and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
+++and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you alone, have I sinned,
+++and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are justified in your sentence
+++and blameless when you pass judgment.
Indeed, I was born guilty,
+++a sinner when my mother conceived me (Psalm 51:1-5).

Talk about an open acknowledgment of one’s personal sins! The example of this psalm teaches and inspires me to be open with God about my own sins, my personal failings, my shortcomings. I do so with the confidence that God already knows everything I might confess and that because of Christ, my sins are forgiven. As it says in 1 John 1:8-9, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”


How can we avoid self-righteousness as Christians?

What helps you to confess your own sins honestly and openly to God?


Set aside some time in the next day or two for personal confession.


Gracious God, I admit that sometimes I like to build myself up by focusing on the sins of others. I suppose I’m even tempted to take solace in the thought that you are judging them and not me. Forgive me, Lord, for my self-righteousness. Forgive me for my lack of compassion. Forgive me for my hard-heartedness.

Give me ears to hear what you would say to me. Give me eyes to see your work in my life. Give me a heart open to confession and ready for repentance.

All praise be to you, O God, because you are making me more and more like you, through Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. Amen.

Part 5: Permission to Grieve

Scripture – Lamentations 1:21 (NRSV)

They heard how I was groaning,
+++with no one to comfort me.
All my enemies heard of my trouble;
+++they are glad that you have done it.
Bring on the day you have announced,
+++and let them be as I am.


Scripture gives us permission to grieve. Though offering plenty of hope and comfort, the Bible provides many examples of godly people expressing their sadness openly and freely. Even Jesus wept more than once during his messianic ministry. We can give each other permission to grieve, not only through our support, but also by weeping with those who weep.

Today’s devotion is part of the series Lamentations in Lent.


I grew up in a family system and culture that didn’t make much room for grief. Oh, if somebody suffered a great loss, like the death of a spouse, it was okay for that person to grieve, but only for a short while and only in moderation. For the most part, we wanted people to be happy and to express themselves happily. Grieving didn’t fit our values.

In many ways, the Christian community of my youth affirmed my familial reticence about grief. Christians were supposed to rejoice always. Sadness was interpreted as a lack of faith. Thus, in memorial services, for example, everybody bent over backward to emphasize that we were not to be sad but rather to rejoice that the person who died was with the Lord. Fleeting moments of sadness were tolerated, as long as they were followed quickly by expressions of joy.

Thus, I remember feeling shocked when, as a fifteen-year-old, our new pastor, Dr. Lloyd Ogilvie, once said, “Tears are the lubrication of the Holy Spirit.” In his view, there were times when it was appropriate to grieve. In fact, Dr. Ogilvie believed that God would use our grief in deep ways so that we might know even more deeply how much God loved us.

Dr. Ogilvie’s openness to expressions of grief fits the testimony of Scripture, including what we find in Lamentations. In verse 21 of the first chapter, for example, the writer acknowledges: “[People] heard how I was groaning.” The Hebrew word translated as “groaning” refers to the open expression of grief and distress. The writer of Lamentations had not kept his sorrow to himself. Rather, he had expressed it publicly.

To be sure, there are times when we need to be quiet, times when we should sit silently before the Lord in our sadness. Yet, Scripture gives us example after of example of godly people who express their grief openly. Most pointedly, we remember that Jesus wept openly at times, such as when he saw the city of Jerusalem (Luke 19:41), or at the tomb of Lazarus (John 11:35). The example of Jesus invites us to experience the fullness of our humanity, entrusting to God all that we are and sharing all of life with each other, both the joys and the sorrows.

A verse in Paul’s letter to the Romans affirms the freedom to grieve, though from a different perspective. Romans 12:15 instructs us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep those who weep.” Not only is it appropriate for people to weep, but also we are to join them in their expressions of sadness.

I can’t emphasize enough how different this is from how I was raised. I mentioned above that my family was uncomfortable with sadness. So, if somebody in my family circle was grieving, my job was not to support or join them in their sorrow, but rather to “cheer them up.” One of my grandmothers, in particular, reminded me again and again that if my siblings were upset, I should “cheer them up.” I must have heard this from her a hundred times, if not a thousand. It’s as if Romans 12:15 said, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, cheer up those who weep.”

Certainly, there is a time when we can help those who grieve see their losses from a new perspective. But, in my experience, this sort of reframing of life happens best when the “reframer” has joined the “reframee” in their grief. It also tends to come after an extended period of time in which someone is able to grieve freely.

After church last Sunday, a dear friend of mine asked if we could talk for a few minutes. She wanted to share with me that her sister had just died in a tragic accident. My friend was shocked and horrified. She was just beginning the process of grieving. She asked me how God could have let this happen, but I didn’t answer that question. There will be a time for that later on. Today, I just sat with her, listening, empathizing, feeling her shock and sorrow. After a while, I prayed, telling God how hard it is for us to understand his ways and asking that my friend experience God’s love as she grieves. I hope that my presence and my prayer will help my friend to know that she is free to grieve, that she can let God know everything she thinks and feels, and that those of us who love her will be with her in this process.


What were the unexpressed “rules” of grieving in your family of origin? In your culture? In your church?

Do you tend to be someone who can grieve freely? Or do you tend to cover over your negative feelings? Why?

What helps you to feel freedom to express your sadness to God?


If you are experiencing a difficult loss in life, tell God about what you’re feeling. Don’t hold back. Be honest.


Gracious God, thank you for giving us so many models in Scripture of people who freely express what’s going on in their hearts. In particular, I thank you for the example of Lamentations, which encourages me to be more honest with you and with others when I am sorrowful.

Yet, at the same time, I thank you for the future that is coming, when you will wipe away every tear from our eyes. I thank you for the hope of a time when there will be no mourning, crying. In the meanwhile, I am grateful, not only for the freedom to grieve, but also for the fact that you are with me, sharing in my suffering and offering the comfort of your presence.

Help me, Lord, to weep with those who weep, to open my heart to the pain of others.

All praise be to you, God of mercy, God of comfort, God of hope. Amen.

Part 6: Here’s a Wild Ride!

Scripture – Lamentations 3:16-23 (NRSV)

He has made my teeth grind on gravel,
+++and made me cower in ashes;
my soul is bereft of peace;
+++I have forgotten what happiness is;
so I say, “Gone is my glory,
+++and all that I had hoped for from the LORD.”
The thought of my affliction and my homelessness
+++is wormwood and gall!
My soul continually thinks of it
+++and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind,
+++and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases,
+++his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
+++great is your faithfulness.


Sometimes faith in God can be comforting and reassuring. Sometimes, however, it can be a wild ride. We see some of this wildness in Lamentations 3, which begins with some of the most painful expressions of pain, with credit given to God. But then, right in the middle of the chapter, there’s a sudden switch. All of a sudden we find hope. Faith is like this sometimes. When we’re on that wild ride, we can be confident that God is watching out for us. We don’t need to be afraid because God is sovereign and God is good.

Today’s devotion is part of the series Lamentations in Lent.


I made one of my worst decisions as a parent on December 21, 1996. It was my son’s fourth birthday. We celebrated by taking him to Disneyland in California. I wanted to do something special for Nathan, so I decided to take him on Space Mountain, a hi-tech roller coaster. He was just barely tall enough to go on the ride. So, ignoring my wife’s motherly protests, Nathan and I headed off for Space Mountain.

Space Mountain, Tomorrowland, Disneyland, Anaheim, California. Used under Creative Commons License https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/.

Space Mountain, Tomorrowland, Disneyland, Anaheim, California. Used under Creative Commons License https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/.

As the fast part of the ride began, I knew instantly that I had made a terrible mistake. The twists and turns of Space Mountain, which happened mostly in darkness, were thrilling for a 39-year-old father, but terrifying to a four-year-old son. Nathan didn’t scream or cry. But I could sense his fear. I felt terrible. When the ride ended, I didn’t say anything. Finally, in a soft, timid voice, Nathan said, “Dad, I don’t think I should go on this ride again until I’m eight.”

Space Mountain was, and still is, a wild ride. If you haven’t gone on it before, consider yourself warned. The third chapter of Lamentations is also a wild ride. If you haven’t read it in a while, consider yourself doubly warned.

The opening verses of chapter 3 include some of the most personal, painful laments of the whole book. We read verses like, “[The Lord] made my teeth grind on gravel, and made me cower in ashes; my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is” (Lamentations 3:16-17). In utter discouragement, the writer of Lamentations confesses, “Gone is my glory, and all that I had hoped for from the LORD” (3:18). Then he adds, “The thought of my affliction and my homelessness is wormwood and gall! My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me.” (3:19-20). You just can’t get much lower than this!

But then, as the text rushes at full tilt toward utter despondency, we come upon a stunning change of direction. Verse 21 reads, “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope” (Lamentations 3:21). Wait! Hope? Where did hope come from? Lamentations has been utterly hopeless so far. But now? What? Hang onto your seats, for the shock has just begun.

Following the shocking mention of hope, we read this: “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23). One minute, the Lord has ground the teeth of the writer into the ground. The next minute, this same writer celebrates the ceaseless love and endless mercies of God. Talk about a wild ride! Surely, Lamentations 3 is one of the wildest rides in the whole Bible.

Have you ever experienced faith as a wild ride? Have you, for example, gone through times of joyful trust in God, only to be turned quickly into doubt and despair? Or perhaps you were sure God was calling you into a certain job or relationship, but for reasons that made no sense to you, what you anticipated didn’t work out. Do you ever find yourself praying like the man who said to Jesus, “I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24)?

If you’ve been on that ride before, you know how crazy it can be. Perhaps you’re on that kind of ride right now. Or maybe you will be in the future. No matter when it comes, you should know that what you’re experiencing is common to God’s faithful people, like the writer of Lamentations, for example.

You should also know that, no matter how wild the ride might seem, God is in control. God is, as we’ll see in more detail in tomorrow’s devotion, utterly faithful and worthy of our trust. Therefore, we do not need to be afraid no matter how scary things might seem.

When I rode with Nathan on Space Mountain some 25 years ago, I felt terrible for him and guilty about my insensitive fathering, but I was not afraid. I did not feel even the tiniest bit of fear on Space Mountain. Why not, even though I was hurtling through the dark, just like Nathan? The answer is simple. I trusted those who had made Space Mountain. I knew that, no matter how unexpected and abrupt the turns might be, and even though I had no idea where I was heading, I would be okay.

So it is on the wild ride of faith. As crazy as it might be sometimes, we don’t have to be afraid because we know God is sovereign, and God’s steadfast love never ceases. God’s mercies never come to an end.


Has your relationship with God ever felt like a wild ride? When? What happened?

How would you describe the “ride” of your faith right now?

How is it possible to go from utter despair to bold confidence in God’s faithfulness?


Talk with your small group or with a friend about the “wild ride” of faith.


Gracious God, every time I read Lamentations 3 it takes my breath away. Even though I know verses 21 and following are coming, I’m stunned to read them. What a jaw-dropping shift in language, from aching lamentation to bold faith!

Again, I thank you for the blunt honesty of Lamentations, for the writer’s willingness to share his faith as it is, not as it might be when prettied up a bit.

Thank you for being with me always, even when I’m on the wild ride of faith. Help me to trust you even when I don’t understand you, even when it feels as if my life is topsy turvy.

Today, Lord, I pray for people who are right in the middle of this ride. They’re being tossed to and fro in the dark. They’re hanging on for dear life. Help them, gracious God, to know that you are right there with them. Hold onto them in your love and mercy. Amen.

Part 7: Great is Thy Faithfulness

Scripture – Lamentations 3:19-23 (NRSV)

The thought of my affliction and my homelessness
+++is wormwood and gall!
My soul continually thinks of it
+++and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind,
+++and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases,
+++his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
+++great is your faithfulness.


One of the most beloved passages of Scripture proclaims, “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23). Because these verses appear in the midst of a chapter full of sorrow and lamentation, we are reminded that God is faithful even when it doesn’t feel that way. God’s love for us is steadfast even in times of loss and sorrow.

Today’s devotion is part of the series Lamentations in Lent.


Lamentations 3:22-23 has inspired many songs and hymns. For example, one of the earliest and most popular praise songs was based on this text: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end . . . .” Similarly, the classic hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness” puts into poetry the assurances of Lamentations 3:22-23. The refrain of this hymn proclaims: “Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see; All I have needed Thy hand hath provided – Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!”

“Great is Thy Faithfulness” is my favorite hymn. I’ve loved it since I was in my twenties. I’ve sung it in some of the happiest and hardest occasions of my life. I sang this hymn with rejoicing in my wedding and my ordination service. I sang this hymn with mixed feelings of sorrow and joy in the memorial services for my father and my mother.

My father died at a relatively young age (54) after suffering terribly with liver cancer. My family and I watched in horror as he wasted away. It was excruciating, one of the hardest things I’ve ever experienced. There were many times when I questioned God’s faithfulness. God certainly didn’t feel faithful in those moments. God’s mercies weren’t new every morning, but far, far away.

Yet, even in the midst of my dad’s suffering and my family’s sorrow, there were times when God let us know that he was still with us, still loving us, still faithful. Sometimes this reassurance would come in moments of quiet, solitary prayer. Sometimes it would come through the love of a sister or brother in Christ. For example, I have a good friend who is pretty stoic when it comes to expressing emotions. One day he reached out to me, asking, “Mark, how are you doing with what’s happening to your father?” I could feel his tender heart, even if his expression was relatively guarded. I told him how things were going, how hard they were. As he listened, I could see tears in his eyes. “I am so, so sorry,” he said, before giving me an awkward hug. Through the kindness of this friend, I could feel God’s presence and compassion. For a moment, I could even believe that God’s faithfulness was indeed great.

Ironically, when we sing songs like “The Steadfast Love of the Lord” and “Great is Thy Faithfulness” in the midst of loss and grief, we are in a similar position to the writer of Lamentations. He and his people had suffered and were suffering horribly. At one point, the writer had lost his hope in God. He wrote, “Gone is my glory, and all that I had hoped for from the LORD” (Lamentations 3:18). Yet, as he remembered the Lord, he found the ability to celebrate God’s love and compassion in some of the most prized words in all of Scripture.

Thus, Lamentations 3:22-23, when read in context, inspires us to confess God’s faithfulness, not only in times of blessing and joy, but also in times of pain and sorrow. Like the writer of Lamentations, in the midst of our struggle we call to mind who God is and how much God cares for us. This gives us hope even in the midst of what feels like hopelessness.


Do you have any favorite worship songs or hymns? If so, what songs or hymns? Why are they your favorites?

Have you ever experienced anything like the writer of Lamentations 3?

What enables you to keep on trusting in God’s faithful love when your life is stung by suffering?


Take some time to ponder the lyrics of “Great is Thy Faithfulness.”

Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father,
there is no shadow of turning with thee.
Thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not;
as thou hast been, thou forever wilt be.

Great is thy faithfulness!
Great is thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
all I have needed thy hand hath provided.
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
sun, moon, and stars in their courses above
join with all nature in manifold witness
to thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love. [Refrain]

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide,
strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside! [Refrain]


Gracious God, how I thank you for the times you have sustained me when I’ve been dragged down by despair. Thank you for continuing to love me when I turned my back on you in anger. Thank you for your patience, your mercy, your kindness.

I pray for all who are struggling to trust you today. Let them know of your love and grace. Reassure them by your presence. Comfort them in their agony and doubt. Even in their pain, help them to know that your faithfulness is great. Amen.

Part 8: Trusting God in Suffering

Scripture – Lamentations 3:19-23 (NRSV)

The thought of my affliction and my homelessness
+++is wormwood and gall!
My soul continually thinks of it
+++and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind,
+++and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases,
+++his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
+++great is your faithfulness.


How can I trust God when I’m suffering? The Bible doesn’t give us easy, pat answers to the problem of suffering. But it does acknowledge both the reality of pain and the presence of God in the midst of pain. When we suffer, we may not have the answers we desire, but we can know the presence and compassion of God.

Today’s devotion is part of the series Lamentations in Lent.


How can I trust God when I’m suffering?

I expect you’ve heard this question before, surely from others, perhaps from your own heart. One of the hardest things in life is to remain faithful to God in times when God seems distant and uncaring, times when suffering is painful, even unrelenting. In times like these, we ask, “How can I trust God when I’m suffering?”

To be sure, there are no easy answers to the problem of suffering. Christians believe in a loving, gracious, all-powerful God. We also affirm the reality of suffering. Thus, we can feel caught between affirmations that seem irreconcilable. For centuries theologians and philosophers have sought to come up with acceptable solutions to the problem of suffering and evil. Some believe they have succeeded. Others are not convinced.

Furthermore, it’s one thing to wrestle with the problem of suffering from a safe philosophical distance and quite another thing to do so when you’re experiencing great pain, either in your own life or in the lives of those for whom you care. Even the best philosophical responses to the problem of pain can fail to satisfy our souls when our bodies are aching or our hearts are breaking. I know this both from my own experience and from my years as a pastor. People in pain understandably ask, “If God loves me and God is good, why is God letting me go through this horrible situation? Why doesn’t God do something?”

Though the problem of pain is not easily dismissed, God has given us resources to help us when we wrestle with suffering. I will mention one of these today and another tomorrow.

One of the most helpful resources God gives us when we suffer is the Bible. Though this book does not give easy answers that we suppose might satisfy us, and though the Bible does not provide philosophical proofs, it does offer insights, testimonies, and experiences that guide us in our thoughts and comfort us in our pain. For one thing, the Bible testifies to the fact of suffering. We see this in Lamentations, of course, but also in so many other biblical books. Scripture teaches us that suffering is not imaginary, but rather an inescapable part of existence in a world broken by sin. If you read the Bible, you cannot help but recognize how it affirms the reality and pervasiveness of suffering.

The Bible also affirms that suffering is not part of God’s intentions for us. Though God can certainly use suffering for good, God did not create the world as a place of pain. Genesis 3 reveals that pain comes after human beings sinned, thus shattering God’s broken world. Romans 8 shows that suffering is part of the “groaning” of this world (Romans 8:18-23). So, when we witness or experience suffering, we rightly sense that something is not right with the world. Moreover, we rightly long for the day when God will wipe away every tear (Revelation 21:4). In the meanwhile, however, tears are an unavoidable part of our lives. They accompany the suffering that fills our world.

Scripture also offers words of assurance when we hurt or doubt. We rightly receive for ourselves the promise once given to Israel: “[D]o not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). As Jesus said to his first disciples, he says to us today: “[R]emember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

The presence of God in the midst of our suffering doesn’t necessarily reduce our pain, though sometimes God does heal broken bodies. But the presence of God in our suffering does help to redeem our pain, even if it doesn’t remove it. I met recently with a friend who has endured terribly painful relational wounds within her family system. She has been wronged and hurt in dreadful ways for many years. As I talked with her about all she has experienced, I expressed how sorry I was for what has happened to her. Her response was not what I expected. “Yes, it’s been terrible,” she said, “but God has been with me in it. In fact, I have sensed God’s closeness in such amazing ways and I have grown so much in my faith that I wouldn’t want things to have gone differently.” I know this woman well, and know that she wouldn’t say this if it weren’t true. In the midst of her suffering, God has not shown her why such painful things have happened. But God has been with her, showing her transformational love and grace. Thus, my friend could affirm God’s faithfulness even in a time of suffering, rather like the writer of Lamentations.

May the Lord give you this grace when you’re going through difficult and painful times!


What helps you understand suffering?

What has helped you remain faithful when life has been hard?

What passages of Scripture have been particularly encouraging to you as you have experienced pain in life?


Take some time to reflect on Isaiah 41:10, “[D]o not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” You may even wish to memorize this verse so you can carry it with you at all times.


Gracious God, sometimes it is hard to believe in you, or to believe that you are a good, loving God. The problem of suffering is one of the toughest for our minds to fathom. And the experience of suffering can batter our faith like a devastating hurricane.

Thank you, Lord, for not leaving us without help . . . though, honestly, there are times when I wish your help was more obvious. Still, I thank you for the gift of Scripture, for the clear affirmation in your Word of the reality of suffering, and your plan to ultimately abolish it. Thank you for passages that offered hope to your people long ago, even as they continue to give me hope today.

Help me, Lord, to hang onto your Word no matter what. I pray in the name of Jesus, the Word Incarnate. Amen.

Part 9: Meeting Jesus in Our Suffering

Scripture – Lamentations 3:19-23 (NRSV)

The thought of my affliction and my homelessness
+++is wormwood and gall!
My soul continually thinks of it
+++and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind,
+++and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases,
+++his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
+++great is your faithfulness.


Suffering can turn our hearts away from God. But it can also open our hearts to a deeper experience of God’s love and grace. Suffering helps us know Jesus better, sharing in his life and death. Suffering also connects us to the “groaning” of creation as we hope for the new creation that is coming. In our times of pain, God supplies, not only hope, but also the Holy Spirit, who reassures us of God’s presence, love, and grace.

Today’s devotion is part of the series Lamentations in Lent.


In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, I began wrestling with the question, “How can I trust God when I’m suffering?” I suggested that Scripture is one way the Lord encourages us to trust in him even when our lives are hard. Today, I want to point to another source of encouragement, the most important one of all.

I’m thinking of Jesus. More than anything else, more than anyone else, Jesus helps us to remain faithful even when our lives are filled with pain. For one thing, when we are hurting, we know that Jesus understands. He experienced the discomforts and discouragements of this life. He was, in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophetic vision, “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3, KJV). Thus, Jesus can sympathize with us in a profound way. As it says in Hebrews 4:14, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.”

Jesus is God’s answer to the problem of suffering. Now, the existence of Jesus doesn’t provide a definitive answer to our philosophical questions. If anything, Jesus creates even more questions. Why would God become human in Jesus? How is it possible for God to suffer? Why did God choose to suffer rather than to obliterate suffering? We’ll never fully answer questions like these. But, we have in Jesus God’s response to our suffering. God sees it. God feels compassion. God shares our pain, even as he shared our humanness in Jesus. God is with us when we suffer. Jesus makes this clear.

It’s true that sometimes people abandon their faith because of the pain of life. They just cannot understand how a loving God would let such terrible things happen. Yet, it’s also true that sometimes our suffering helps us to know God more truly and trust God more fully. When we suffer, we can enter more deeply into a relationship with Jesus, the man of sorrows.

Jesus suffered, not only to be able to have compassion for us, but also to bring about the ultimate end of suffering. Because of his death, the power of sin and death has been broken. Ultimately, God will triumph. God’s kingdom will pervade all creation. Sorrow and suffering will pass away.

We find this hope in many places of Scripture, but perhaps most compellingly in the eighth chapter of Romans. Here, the Apostle Paul writes, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us” (Rom 8:18). In Paul’s view, our suffering is experienced by the “whole creation” that “has been groaning in labor pains until now” (Rom 8:22-23). Yet we share with creation the hope that “creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Rom 8:21).

Such hope keeps us going even in suffering. But hope is not the only thing God supplies to help us persevere. Paul explains, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words” (Rom 8:26). God’s own Spirit helps us to pray, even praying through us in hard times.

Even when life seems impossibly difficult, God is with us. God is on our side. As it says in Romans 8:31, “What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” Not only is God for us, but also God loves us with an abiding love. Here’s how Paul concludes his discussion of suffering, hope, and faith: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 8:38-39). No matter how painful and confusing our lives might be, God loves for us will never let us go. Thus, we can affirm God’s faithfulness even in the midst of suffering. Suffering helps us to know Jesus better and opens our hearts to receive God’s love in a deeper and truer way.


How has Jesus helped you when your life has been hard?

Has your experience of suffering ever helped you grow closer to God?

When you hear about creation “groaning,” what comes to mind for you?

What helps you to know, really to know, that nothing in all creation can take away God’s love for you?


As you think about the people in your life, reach out to someone who is going through a difficult time right now. Let this person know of your care and concern.


Gracious God, how I thank you for becoming fully human in Jesus, for entering into the pains and sorrows of this life, as well as its delights and joys. Thank you for knowing how it feels when I am exhausted, lonely, or in pain. It encourages me to know that you understand, and that you are with me always.

Yet, even more, I thank you for entering into human suffering in order to vanquish it. Your death was not the end. After Good Friday, there came Easter. After suffering, victory. After death, the fullness of life. How thankful I am, Lord Jesus, for the hope I find in your resurrection. Help me, I pray, to live with this hope today.

All praise be to you, Word of God Incarnate, Savior, Lord! Amen.

Part 10: Sharing Your Suffering with Others

Scripture – Lamentations 3:40-41 (NRSV)

Let us test and examine our ways,
+++and return to the LORD.
Let us lift up our hearts as well as our hands
+++to God in heaven.


When we go through difficult times, we need others to be with us. There is a sacred connection that happens when we weep with those who weep, and when we allow others to weep with us in our sorrow. On the night before Jesus was crucified, he went to a secluded place to pray. But he did not go alone; he took three of his closest friends with him. His example teaches us to reach out to others when we are hurting, to allow them to be present with us in our time of need.

Today’s devotion is part of the series Lamentations in Lent.


Today is the Monday of Holy Week, a time in which we prepare for a deeper experience of the death of Jesus on Good Friday and his resurrection on Easter. In this week, I will continue to reflect with you on the Old Testament book of Lamentations. What we discover in this ancient document helps us to go deeper into the reality of Holy Week.

At the end of last week, I was considering the question, “How can I trust God when I’m suffering?” I suggested that God helps us to remain firm and even to grow in faith through Scripture and through our encounter with Jesus, who knows suffering firsthand. Today, I want to suggest another way God is present to us in our suffering, thus helping us to trust God even in difficult times.

We get a hint about this other way from Lamentations 3:40-41, which reads, “Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the LORD. Let us lift up our hearts as well as our hands to God in heaven.” Most of Lamentations 3 contains personal, individual laments by the writer of the book. His lamentations reflect and represent those of Israel, but they are in the first person singular. Then, in verse 40, we find a reference to “us” and “our ways.” Verse 41 summons others to join the writer of Lamentations in prayer, “Let us lift up our hearts as well as our hands to God in heaven.” These verses remind us that, during our time of suffering, we need others to join with us in both pain and prayer.

When we put our faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, we enter into relationship, not only with God, but also with God’s people. Our Heavenly Father adopts us into a giant family with millions of brothers and sisters. God’s intention for us is that we would live our life in profound intimacy with some of these Christian siblings.

One of the crucial roles of the family of God is to offer comfort and support in times of suffering. According to Romans 12:15, we are to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” This happens because “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26). Notice that our first duty to those who suffer is not to cheer them up or sort out their theology. Rather, we’re to share in their pain and to weep when they weep. Then, in the context of such empathy, we can also find ways to bring comfort and hope.

Over the years, I have watched people deal with suffering in different ways. Some share their pain with their sisters and brothers in Christ, receiving in return the love that comes with people who weep with those who weep. Others, however, choose to keep their pain to themselves, not letting folks know what they’re going through. A good friend of mine found himself in a highly dysfunctional marriage, one in which he was the victim of emotional and physical abuse. He felt so ashamed about his situation that he didn’t tell a soul what he was going through until the marriage ended in divorce. My heart ached for this friend who had endured so much pain all by himself.

I did understand my friend, however. I tend not to want to share my suffering with others. This is especially true when my pain is mixed with shame, when I think that what I’m experiencing is, at least in part, my own fault. I’m pretty good at keeping difficult things to myself. I’m not bragging about this, mind you. My failure to share my weeping with others keeps them from doing what Scripture commands, namely, to weep with those who weep. Moreover, I cut myself off from the commiseration and comfort that comes from caring brothers and sisters in Christ. I will say however, that, over time, I’m getting better about sharing my pain with others. But every now and then I still hear from those who love me, “Why didn’t you tell about this sooner? Why were you carrying it all by yourself?”

God made us for relationship, not only with God, but also with each other. Life is richer and fuller when we do what Scripture commands, weeping with those who weep and rejoicing with those who rejoice. So, when you’re going through hard things, whether at work or at home, whether physical, financial, or relational, don’t go it alone. God did not intend for you to be faithful all by yourself. Rather, he adopted you into his family so that you might experience his love from your brothers and sisters in Christ.

We see in the life of Jesus a powerful example of sharing suffering with others. On the night before he was crucified, Jesus experienced tremendous anguish. So he went to a quiet place to pray. His band of disciples followed him most of the way, but Jesus selected his three closest friends to join him in prayer. As you probably know, they didn’t follow through very well, falling asleep as Jesus poured out his heart to his Heavenly Father. It’s true that sometimes those we count on to be with us in difficult times won’t be what we need them to be. But my point here is that Jesus did not go to Gethsemane alone. He knew that in his moment of extreme spiritual suffering he needed others with him. The next day, as Jesus was being crucified, many of his followers abandoned him, though others stayed with him to the end, especially some of the women in his retinue.

If Jesus needed people with him in Gethsemane, then surely we need people with us in our time of suffering. May God give us the grace to open our lives to those who care for us. And may God give them the grace to be present with us and even to weep with us.


Have you ever experienced the support of your Christian community when you were going through a difficult time? What happened?

Have you ever been a conduit of God’s love to someone who was suffering?

When you remember Jesus’s experience in Gethsemane, how do you respond? What do you think? What do you feel?


If you are going through a difficult time of life, be sure to share your struggle with at least one other person. If you know of someone who is suffering today, why not reach out and find a way to say: “I’m with you in this.”


Gracious God, how thankful I am that you have not left us alone. As you know so well, there’s no way I could make it on my own. This is especially true in times of suffering.

Your church is not perfect, Lord. You know that better than I do. But, in so many ways, my brothers and sisters have been there for me in difficult times. I thank you for their prayers, their hugs, their patience, their generosity, their words of comfort, their strong faith when my faith faltered.

Help me, Lord, to share my struggles and sufferings with others, even when I’m ashamed or otherwise reticent. May I give those who love me the chance to weep with those who weep.

Also, dear Lord, may I to be for others what they have been for me. Help me to be a channel of your peace and reassurance. Help me to weep with those who weep so that I might rejoice when they rejoice.

All praise be to you, Gracious God, for the privilege of being a child in your family. Amen.

Part 11: Being Honest with God in Prayer

Scripture – Lamentations 3:40-41 (NRSV)

Let us test and examine our ways,
+++and return to the LORD.
Let us lift up our hearts as well as our hands
+++to God in heaven.


Time and again, the Bible invites us to be fully honest with God. No matter what we’re thinking or feeling, we can talk openly to God about it. The most stunning example of such openness in prayer comes in the Garden of Gethsemane, when Jesus prays on the night before he is crucified. In shocking candor, Jesus asks his Heavenly Father to take the “cup” away from him, the cup of suffering, the cup of the cross. Yet, having shared his deepest yearnings, Jesus also offered himself fully to God, to walk faithfully on the road of suffering.

Today’s devotion is part of the series Lamentations in Lent.


As you know, recently I have been mulling over the question “How can I trust God when I’m suffering?” I’ve pointed to the encouragement we receive from Scripture, from Jesus Christ, and from Christian community. Today, I want to offer one further way to hang in there with God during difficult times.

As Lamentations 3:41 puts it, “Let us lift up our hearts as well as our hands to God in heaven.” This is a poetic way of saying that we should pray openly and energetically. When we’re suffering, it can be tempting to stop praying altogether. God feels distant. We worry that God has abandoned us. Or we figure that, at any rate, God is sick and tired of our prayers. So we stop praying. This is understandable, but it cuts us off from one of the main supports to our faith, namely, conversation with God.

The third chapter of Lamentations exemplifies the kind of honest, open-hearted prayer that keeps us connected to God. It begins with a full-throated lament about how God has hurt the writer. Then it moves into a stunning celebration of God’s faithfulness and renewing mercies. But that’s not the end. After this pinnacle of trust, the writer of Lamentations accuses God in outrageous language: “You have made us filth and rubbish among the peoples” (Lamentations 3:45). Then, after telling God how much he has been crying (3:48-49), the writer begs God to punish those who have hurt him: “Give them anguish of heart; your curse be on them!” (3:65). Now if this isn’t honest prayer, I don’t know what is.

When we are hurting, sometimes it seems as if God has turned away from us. Yet, at other times, God makes his love known to us as we open our hearts in prayer. Let me share with you a story from the time when my dad was dying. I’m thinking that I have told this story before in Life for Leaders, but it seems right to tell it again here.

For months and months as cancer ravaged my dad’s body, I prayed for his healing, every day, several times a day. I prayed alone. I prayed with others. I prayed while driving and working. As I prayed, there were moments of hope, but these quickly dissipated.

One day, I was walking in the hills above my parents’ home, crying out to God as usual. While pouring out my heart, all of a sudden I felt God’s presence in a powerful way. It was almost a physical sensation. I know God is always with me, but sometimes God graciously helps me to know, even to feel his presence. In that moment, God gave me two gifts of knowledge. First, I knew that my dad would soon die. The healing for which I was asking would not be granted, at least in this life. Second, I also knew that God loved me and my family and would never let us go. It might appear that I was confused by the seeming inconsistency between these two bits of knowledge. But, in that moment, I also felt a miraculous sense of peace. What I had wanted when I prayed was for God to heal my dad. This would not happen. What I got was the life-changing presence of God and a profound reassurance of God’s love.

Of course, God could have met me when I wasn’t praying. God shows up whenever God wants to, of course. But I do believe that because I was praying so honestly, my heart was open. I was ready to hear from the Lord, to be both saddened and gladdened by what I heard.

A sculpture of Jesus in prayer, embedded in the wall of the Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem. © Mark Roberts, 2022

Perhaps the greatest example of honesty in prayer comes during Holy Week. The gospels teach us that Jesus knew he was going to be crucified. He had told his disciples it was necessary. Thus, when Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray, he knew what lay before him. He had known it for many months and now it was time for him to do what was required of him. (The photo is a sculpture of Jesus in prayer, embedded in the wall of the Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem. © Mark Roberts, 2022).

But, in his prayer in Gethsemane, Jesus asked for something that is truly mind-blowing: “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want” (Mark 14:36). Yes, to be sure, Jesus was surrendering to his Father’s will. But that was the second part of the prayer. In the first part, he asked for the “cup” to be removed. Jesus was asking for another way, for something other than the cross. But wait—we might object—he knew what the Father’s will was. Yes, he did. But even then, Jesus, the unique Son of God, felt free to ask for another way. This is utterly astounding. If it were not in Scripture, we’d say it couldn’t be so.

The prayerful honesty of Jesus in Gethsemane confirms what we find elsewhere in Scripture, in the Psalms, to be sure, and also in Lamentations. God invites us to open our souls, to lift up our hearts and our hands, praying honestly and energetically, holding nothing back.

May God give you the grace to do this today and in all the days ahead.


Have you ever encountered God in the midst of honest prayer?

What keeps you from praying honestly?

What helps you to pray more consistently? More honestly?


Read the story of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane in Mark 14:32-42. Take time to reflect on this story and what it means to you.


Gracious God, may I lift up my heart and my hands to you. May I pray consistently, faithfully, honestly. Help me, Lord, to remain in communication with you as I live my life each day, at work and in the car, when I’m reading a report and speaking with a colleague, when I’m having dinner with my family or walking the dog.

Give me special grace, Lord, to pray when I’m hurting. If I’m tempted to cut off our conversation, help me to persevere.

Thank you for the example of Jesus in the Garden, for his stunning demonstration of openness in prayer, as well as for his willingness to do your will, no matter what.

All praise be to you, O God, because you are not only a God of comfort. You are also a God who wants a relationship with me. What a wonder! Amen.

Part 12: Messianic Hope and Deep Disappointment

Scripture – Lamentations 4:20 (NRSV)

The LORD’S anointed, the breath of our life,
+++was taken in their pits—
the one of whom we said, “Under his shadow
+++we shall live among the nations.”


In the 6th century B.C., as the Babylonians conquered Judah and ravaged the city of Jerusalem, the Jewish people were profoundly disappointed in their king. He did not bring life as they hoped, but death. Beneath the people’s disappointment in their king was an even deeper disappointment in God. The book of Lamentations expresses this disappointment, and in so doing encourages us to be honest when we feel disillusioned by God. By keeping our hearts open, we become aware of God’s presence and grace, even if we don’t understand God’s ways.

Today’s devotion is part of the series Lamentations in Lent.


The book of Lamentations was written during the time of the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon. The persistent unfaithfulness of the people of God brought about their subservience to the Babylonians and ultimately their utter defeat as well as the destruction of Jerusalem.

The Crucifixion from the church of Chiesa di Santa Caterina in Taormina, Italy, showing Jesus’s disciples at the foot of the cross. © Mark D. Roberts. All rights reserved.

The Jewish people had hoped that their king would deliver them from Babylonian domination. We find this hope in Lamentations 4:20, for example. This verse refers to “the LORD’S anointed” who is also “the breath of our life.” Both of these descriptions were applied to the king of Judah, who, in the years before the fall of Jerusalem, was Zedekiah. He was the one, according to Lamentations, about whom the people said, “Under his shadow we shall live among the nations.” The king would ensure that his people flourished even when surrounded by Gentile nations—at least that was the hope. He would fulfill God’s promises of an anointed ruler who would sit on the throne of David.

Unfortunately, King Zedekiah did not fulfill the hopes of his people. The inexperienced ruler, who became king at 21 years of age and ruled for 11 years, was both unfaithful and unwise. As it says in Jeremiah 52:2, Zedekiah “did what was evil in the sight of the LORD.” He also did what was foolish, rebelling against the king of Babylon, whose military strength was far superior to that of Judah (Jeremiah 52:3). In retaliation, the Babylonians laid siege to Jerusalem for two years, thus causing extreme famine in the city. The impact of this famine is found in Lamentations 4:9-10: “Happier were those pierced by the sword than those pierced by hunger, whose life drains away, deprived of the produce of the field. The hands of compassionate women have boiled their own children; they became their food in the destruction of my people.”

When the Babylonians managed to breach the wall of Jerusalem, King Zedekiah and his retinue fled, attempting to escape into the wilderness to the east of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 39:2-4). But the superior Babylonian forces pursued and captured Zedekiah. They brought him to the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, who passed a harsh sentence upon Zedekiah. First, his sons were slaughtered before his eyes. Then his eyes were put out. After this, he was imprisoned, until he finally died (Jeremiah 52:9-11).

Thus ended the messianic hope of Judah, or so it seemed. The person God had anointed as their king had utterly failed to live up to the yearnings of the people. He failed as ruler, seeking to save his own skin above all. In no way were the Jewish people able to “live among the nations” under the shadow of King Zedekiah.

I wonder if any of Jesus’s followers in or around 33 A.D. remembered the cries of Lamentations when Jesus was crucified. They had believed that he was “the Lord’s anointed.” They had seen him as “the breath of life.” And they may well have said, “Under his shadow we shall live among the nations.” Yet, like Zedekiah, Jesus was taken by the ruling authorities. Like Zedekiah, he was arrested and tortured. Like Zedekiah, he died under the power of an oppressive Gentile regime.

Of course, there were striking differences between the case of Zedekiah and that of Jesus. Zedekiah was a political king. Jesus had no earthly political authority. Zedekiah received his kingship from Babylon. Jesus said that his kingdom was not from this world. Zedekiah led a failed rebellion against Judah’s oppressors. Jesus did not lead an attack against Rome. Zedekiah tried to escape from Jerusalem when his life was in danger. Jesus came to Jerusalem in order to give up his life there and did not flee when he was pursued by the authorities. Zedekiah did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. Jesus always did what was good in the sight of his Father in heaven.

Yet, in spite of the differences between Zedekiah and Jesus, they have in common the fact that they both disappointed those who had hoped these “kings” would usher in a time of national restoration. Neither Zedekiah nor Jesus led a successful rebellion against the foreign nation that ruled over God’s people. After the Romans crucified Jesus, those who had believed him to be the Messiah were deeply disappointed, let down by the one in whom they had hoped.

Now, of course, we come to one of the greatest differences between Zedekiah and Jesus. Zedekiah utterly failed in his mission. Jesus, who appeared to have failed, utterly succeeded in his mission. His death was not the defeat it appeared to be. Rather, it was an essential part of the coming of God’s kingdom.

Nevertheless, I don’t want to minimize the disappointment that the followers of Jesus felt after his death. Not only did they lose their teacher and leader, but also they lost their hope that he was the long-awaited Messiah, the one who would free the Jews from Roman domination and establish forever the earthly kingdom of God. It’s hard to imagine the devastation that Jesus’s disciples must have felt immediately after his death.

Most Christians I know are familiar with what it feels like to be disappointed in Jesus. We believe he’s the divine healer. Yet when we pray for a loved one to be healed and that person dies, we feel profoundly let down. We believe Jesus is the great reconciler. Yet when we pray for reconciliation with an estranged member of our family, but reconciliation never comes, we become discouraged, not just in general, but with Jesus. We believe Jesus is the one who brings God’s justice and righteousness. Yet we see a world shattered by injustice and violence. It’s easy to become disillusioned with Jesus. In fact, I know people whose disappointment in Jesus was so powerful that they chose not to believe in him anymore.

What should we do with this disappointment? All too often we try to hide it, to press it down, to deny it even as it eats away at our soul. Lamentations shows us another way. This book encourages us to speak of our disappointment, to share it with others and, most importantly, with the Lord. Rather than closing our souls to God when we’re disappointed, we can open them to God’s presence and reassurance. Our disappointment may not disappear, at least not right away. But alongside our disillusionment will grow a confident reliance on God’s trustworthiness. Though we may never understand God’s ways, at least in this life, we will be ready to receive “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). We will know at a place within us even deeper than our disappointment that nothing in all creation “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39).


Can you think of a time when you felt disappointed in God? What happened? What did you do with your disappointment?

Can you imagine how disappointed the followers of Jesus were with him after he was crucified? (Remember, they had no expectation that he would be raised, in spite of what he had told them previously.)

Why do you think so many of us have a hard time expressing our disappointment in God?


If you are feeling disappointed in God, talk to God about it, openly. And, if you are able, share how you’re feeling with a wise friend. If you’re not feeling disappointed in God these days, you probably know someone who is. Pray for that person. If you feel led, reach out to that person with gracious understanding.


Gracious God, we have put our hope in you. We can think of many times when you have fulfilled our hope, and so much more. But there are other times. You know that, Lord. There are times when our hope seems so right and solid, yet you do not follow through in the way we had wanted. We become disappointed in you. We can even doubt your goodness or faithfulness. Or maybe even your existence.

Help us, Lord, when we’re disappointed. Give us the freedom to express what we think and feel to you and to those who are there to support us. Keep us from shutting our hearts to you, even when it’s hard to trust. Give us the gift of vulnerability and openness before you. And then, dear Lord, give us the added gift of your presence, your peace that passes understanding.

I want also to pray today for those who are experiencing disappointment in you. O God, be merciful to them. Show them your goodness. Embrace in your love. Keep them close to your heart, I pray. Amen.

Part 13: Asking the “Why?” Question

Scripture – Lamentations 5:19-20 (NRSV)

But you, O LORD, reign forever;
+++your throne endures to all generations.
Why have you forgotten us completely?
+++Why have you forsaken us these many days?


The Bible reveals that faithful people cry out to God with the all-too-familiar prayer: “Why?” The book of Lamentations asks, “Why have you forgotten us completely?” Jesus himself asks from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The biblical witness gives us the freedom to ask in our time of suffering and uncertainty: “Why, God? Why?” We may not receive from the Lord the answer we desire. But we can be reassured of God’s faithfulness, even when we don’t understand God’s actions.

Today’s devotion is part of the series Lamentations in Lent.


For 151 verses, except for a brief respite in chapter 3, the writer of Lamentations has poured out his sorrow. Judah has fallen to the Babylonians. Jerusalem has been destroyed and the temple decimated. The people have suffered terribly, with many taken into exile. The root cause of this agony has been Judah’s persistent rejection of God and his ways. Thus, God’s judgment is just. His people are getting what they brought on themselves.

Not once in the first 151 verses of Lamentations does the writer question God’s justice or sovereignty. But, finally, in verse 152, the third from the last in the book, the author cries out, “Why have you forgotten us completely? Why have you forsaken us these many days?” (Lamentations 5:20). God is right to judge his people. Their suffering is deserved. But why must it last so long? Why hasn’t the Lord intervened on behalf of his people? Why such an extended season of hardship?

When we go through times of suffering, it’s natural for us to cry out to the Lord in this way. We want to know why God isn’t helping us, why God has apparently abandoned us, why God fails to heed our cries for mercy. Why? Why? Why? The example of Lamentations 5:20 suggests that we should feel free to challenge God in this way. It’s appropriate to ask God “Why?”

Perhaps the most profound and powerful “Why?” prayer in the Bible comes from Jesus as he is being crucified. We read in Mark 15:34, “At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” Mark gives us the actual Aramaic words spoken by Jesus, translated into Greek, which we read in English. But Jesus didn’t make up this prayer. Rather, he got it from the opening verse of Psalm 22: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?” (22:1). From the biblical psalm Jesus found words to express his own agonizing wondering: Why have you forsaken me?

We have no evidence that Jesus received a heavenly answer to his “Why” question. Similarly, the writer of Lamentations doesn’t supply God’s answer to his similar question: “Why have you forsaken us these many days?” Scripture gives us ample freedom to ask God “Why?” But unfortunately God often chooses not to answer this question, at least not in the moment. Our experience tends to reflect this frustrating situation. We cry out “Why?” but God doesn’t answer, at least not in the ways and the times in which we want God to answer. (It is not uncommon, however, for people to look back upon their lives and understand what God was doing even in times of suffering and perplexity.)

The stunning Terrence Malick film The Tree of Life tells the story of a family dealing with the death of a beloved member. The question of “Why?” runs throughout the film. But this question never receives the kind of answer we might expect. Instead, the core of the film depicts the creation of the universe, thus illustrating the biblical passage with which the movie opens, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth . . . . When the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4,7).

When Jesus cried out on the cross, “Why have you forsaken me?” he didn’t receive an answer from heaven, at least not insofar as we know. But his quotation from Psalm 22 suggests that Jesus’s trust in his Heavenly Father remained solid even as he suffered and wondered. That psalm, which opens with a painful “Why?” question, transitions into an expression of faith. Verses 4-5 read:

In you our ancestors trusted;
+++they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried, and were saved;
+++in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.

But then it circles back to expressions of lament:

But I am a worm,
+++and not human;
scorned by others,
+++and despised by the people.
All who see me mock at me;
+++they make mouths at me, they shake their heads (22:6-7).

I can count all my bones.
+++They stare and gloat over me;
they divide my clothes among themselves,
+++and for my clothing they cast lots (22:17-18).

Then the psalm writer cries out for God’s help and deliverance (22:19-21).

At this point Psalm 22 takes a surprising turn. It calls people to praise and glorify God (22:23). Why? “For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted; he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him” (22:24). The psalm writer anticipates God’s deliverance and offers praise “in the great congregation” (22:25). The psalm concludes on this hopeful note:

Posterity will serve him;
+++future generations will be told about the Lord,
and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn,
+++saying that he has done it (22:30-31).

Jesus surely knew, not only the first verse of Psalm 22, but also the whole psalm. His cry using the opening verse was surely authentic, a desperate asking of the “Why?” question. But, by quoting from this particular psalm, Jesus was also expressed his conviction of God’s faithfulness. The same God to whom we cry out “Why?” is the God who will not hide his face from us, the God who graciously saves us in God’s own time and according to God’s own wisdom.


Have you ever cried out “Why?” to God? What response did you get? How did you respond to that response?

Are you wondering right now why God is doing something in your life, or failing to do something you would like God to do? If so, are you willing to talk with God about it?


Read all of Psalm 22, especially in light of Jesus’s quotation of this Psalm from the cross. Be open to what God wants to say to you through this portion of Scripture.


Gracious God, thank for the freedom to cry out to you in prayer. Thank you for the example of Lamentations 5:20, which encourages us to ask you “Why?”

Sometimes, Lord, you answer this question in a way we can understand. Sometimes, we see an answer, but only much later. Often, though, you don’t answer us in the way we would prefer. Instead, you remind us of who you are, your greatness and power as revealed in creation. You remind us of your love and grace, revealed in Jesus Christ. You reassure us without explaining the “why” of your actions.

O God, I trust that you do what is best, even when I don’t understand and don’t like it. So, help me, Lord, to live with my limitations, to trust you when I can’t fathom you, and to sustain my hope in you. Amen.

Part 14: Restore Us, Lord, to Yourself! A Devotion for Good Friday

Scripture – Lamentations 5:21-22 (NRSV)

Restore us to yourself, O LORD, that we may be restored;
+++renew our days as of old—
unless you have utterly rejected us,
+++and are angry with us beyond measure.


In the book of Lamentations we read a simple prayer: “Restore us to yourself, O LORD, that we may be restored.” This prayer assumes that only God can mend our relationship with God. Restoration is a gift of God’s grace, grace we remember on Good Friday. God acted to restore us through the death of Christ on the cross. When we accept this gift and put our trust in God, we are restored in our relationship with God, and we become partners with God in the restoration of all things.

Today’s devotion is part of the series Lamentations in Lent.


As we have worked our way through the 150+ verses of Lamentations, we have listened to the laments of an anonymous writer. He has chronicled in detail the woes of Judah as the nation was overthrown by the Babylonians. He spares no words in expressing his grief over what has happened. God’s judgment has fallen deservedly on God’s own people. Their lives have been devastated.

Lamentations does not include extensive prayers for divine intervention. The writer does not cry out to God to save him and his people from their predicament. The only consistent request in Lamentations is for God to pay attention to Judah’s plight (for example, 1:20; 5:1).

Yet, right at the end of the book, the writer does seek God’s help. But does he plead with God to defeat the Babylonians? No. Does he pray for the restoration of the nation? No. Does he ask for the restoration of the temple? No. Rather, the writer of Lamentations prays for the restoration of the people’s relationship with God: “Restore us to yourself, O LORD, that we may be restored” (Lamentations 5:21). The verb translated here as “restore” has the literal meaning of “return.” This verb is often used to depict human repentance, turning away from sin and back to God. But notice that in Lamentations 5:21, God is the only one who has the power to return the people to God. If God does not intervene on their behalf, the people have no hope, none at all.

The concluding verses of Lamentations describe, not just the condition of the Jews under Babylonian rule, but also our own condition. Our sin has separated us from God and from the life that comes from our relationship with God. We have no hope apart from God and God’s grace, none at all. Thus, we might also pray, “Restore us to yourself, O LORD, that we may be restored.”

Today is Good Friday, the day on which we remember Christ’s death on the cross. We recollect not just the event of Jesus’s crucifixion, however, but also and especially its meaning. On this day above all days we call to mind the truth conveyed in 2 Corinthians 5:21: “For our sake [God] made [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” God determined that Christ would bear the penalty for our sin. Why? So that we might have right relationship with God—and through God with the rest of creation, including people.

If we were to render the profound truth of 2 Corinthians 5:21 in the language of Lamentations, we might say, “For our sake God made Christ to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might be restored to God and with God participate in the restoration of all things.” The cross of Christ is God’s answer to our fervent prayer, “Restore us to yourself, O LORD, that we may be restored.”

As we remember the way in which God has restored us, we are struck by the reality of suffering, not our suffering in this case, but the suffering of Jesus, the suffering of God the Son. We ponder the mystery of God the Son crying out to God the Father, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” As Martin Luther once said, “God forsaken by God, who can understand that?”

The wondrous mystery of the restoring death of Christ is expressed dramatically in the words of Charles Wesley, who wrote the hymn, “And Can It Be That I Should Gain?” I conclude this Good Friday devotion with verses 1, 2, and 5 of that hymn:

And can it be that I should gain
An int’rest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

’Tis mystery all! The Immortal dies!
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love Divine!
’Tis mercy all! let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.
’Tis mercy all! let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more. . . .

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine!
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness Divine,
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.


Are you ever tempted to think that you can make things right with God through your own efforts? If so, why? If not, why not?

What gets you to the point of praying, “Restore me to yourself, O LORD, that I may be restored”?

When have you experienced God’s mercy that returned you to a relationship with him?


Set aside some time today to reflect on the cross of Jesus and its implications. You may wish to read one or more of the passion narratives from the Gospels (Matthew 26-27; Mark 14-15; Luke 22-23; John 18-19).


Gracious God, sometimes I am tempted to think that I can manage on my own, even when it comes to my relationship with you. So, I try hard, and then even harder, only to fall short. Then I realize what the writer of Lamentations also realized. Only you can save! Only you can restore me to yourself.

How thankful I am, Lord, that you have done this very thing through Christ. On this day in particular, I am thankful for the cross, for the pouring out of your love through Christ.

God, using the words of Lamentations I pray, “Restore me to yourself, O LORD, that I may be restored.” I don’t neglect the ways in which I have already experienced restoration by your grace. But I recognize that more is needed. And so I pray, “Restore me to yourself, O LORD, that I may be restored.”

All praise be to you, God of mercy, God of grace. All praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ, who gave your life for the world, including me. Amen.

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