From: Katie Van Zanen
I’m always perplexed by the abrupt reversals of Biblical authors. Lamentations 3 (NRSV) goes on for 20 verses about the wrath of God (broken bones, heavy chains, grinding teeth, an arrow to the gut) and then turns: “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.”
I heard these verses as a song in church growing up, and always assumed the passage came from Psalms. A book called “Lamentations” seems like an odd place for a celebration of God’s new mercies every morning, especially after all that stuff about affliction.
But there’s a sudden stillness when the speaker invokes God’s love. In the subsequent verses the speaker exhorts God’s people to “wait,” “wait quietly,” “sit alone in silence.” After all the struggle and siege and calls for help, the awareness of God’s love is characterized by calm. The speaker maintains a profound trust in the faithfulness of God, despite all appearances to the contrary.
In a life full of noise– lessons to plan, laundry to be done, scandals and tragedies and threats in one headline after another, emails upon emails and decision deadlines looming– I often miss that calm. I’m teaching more classes this semester than ever before, and it feels like the stack of papers to grade never gets smaller and I just can’t manage all of this on my own. But the season of Lent reminds me that I will return to dust, as will all those papers. And Lamentations reminds me that in the midst of my struggle, I have implausible, unreasonable, absolute hope. Not because of the eventual success of my efforts, but because of the unceasing mercies of my God.
I live oceanside in Lynn with my husband Nathan and an inordinate number of books. We’re talking a lot about rest these days.