And the chapter we’re sinking into cries the worst aspect of the darkness: the feel of disconnect from God, the kind that leaves us saying, “You have covered Yourself with a cloud, so that no prayer can get through” (Lam 3:44 NIV).
Yet, as he points out, four times this chapter repeats the living word “Hope”! (Lam 3:21, 24, 26, 29).
Still, what a puzzle is its first sliver of light that spears through the cloud cover!
“Why is this here?” he asks, “in this verse triplet ?” (He refers to Lamentations 3:19-21, which he has explained as part of an acrostic, each verse in it starting with the same Hebrew letter).
Why does Jeremiah say he gains hope from recollecting pain and affliction and bitter soul sinking? How could such remembrance give anyone hope?
At first I want to think the prophet’s “recalling” what’s in the next triplet: new mercies each morning (Lam 3:22-24). But no. I realize, before anyone else points it out, that’s contorting the passage out of its precisely planned shape. Jeremiah here is drawing hope from life’s previous darkness.
And so I look back… peer deep into blackened tunnels I never want to re-enter, ever! And within the gloom I do see rays were shining in from this side, though barely penetrating the murk, sometimes visible in there and sometimes not. Mere frail maybes in the dark are what kept me plodding toward a possibility, that indeed somewhere ahead the mouth of Hope opened to full daylight.
It is the darkness that sharpens the light seeping hope beneath a door. It is shadows that define the light through windows. It is clouds that refract the rising light of heaven into beauty’s colors. While we’re stuck beneath them, or lost in the black tunnel’s longest bend, we can’t catch a single glimpse of glorious display. But once we’re out, what radiance! (Which, before, we might have taken for granted.)
“Hope that seen is not hope,” he quoted. True. Because seeing is the desired prize. If only we could see what we long for, we think! But if we saw it, we wouldn’t be hoping. Or, put differently, we wouldn’t be exercising hope. Hope draws us on through deep despond, with some mysterious glimmer of confidence telling us it’s somewhere up ahead. And we evidence our hope by our continued plodding foreward.
And, well, yes, the more dark caves cum tunnels we’ve gotten through, the stronger that hope can gleam—not from our surroundings, but within our own souls, even in the Cavern Dismal.
But there’s even greater reason why God puts us in the dark…
(this post linked to…)