The Space Between

Waiting for anything feels like a complete waste of time. Waiting for God to move or answer seems even worse. Lamentations 3:25–27 shows us the value of living in the space between suffering and restoration. Lament serves us well as we mourn and wait.

The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
It is good for a man that he bear
the yoke in his youth.

What you cannot see in your English translation is that verses 25–27 all begin with the Hebrew word “good.”1 It could read:

Good is the Lord to those who wait for him,
Good it is that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord,
Good it is for a young man to bear the yoke in his youth.

So there is obviously something good here. What is it? To wait on the Lord means to place your hope in him—to trust that God is the one who can deliver you. Your entire confidence rests on him. We wait upon the Lord because he is God and we are not.

Why Is It So Hard?

Why is waiting so difficult? Because it feels as if we’re not doing anything. And that’s the point. You’re not doing anything, but God is. However, waiting is one of the greatest applications of the Christian faith. You are putting your trust in God, placing your hope in him, and expressing confidence that he is in control. Waiting puts us in an uncomfortable place where we’re out of control of our lives. This is “active patience”? That season is when God will shape and define us the most.

However, I’m not saying waiting is easy. The uncertainty of what may or may not happen can be haunting. It can occupy too much space in our thinking. I’ve had it affect my sleep and assault my mind with the first thoughts of the day. Waiting can be hard because of the fear of what might happen. Our inability to do anything but wait is a powerless feeling. We want to know the answer. We want to know what’s going on. We want to know, “What’s the point of this? Why is this happening? Why is my life not like I want?”

Rather than resisting this season, we can see waiting as an opportunity for life-changing lessons. And that is one of the reasons why Lamentations 3:27 says it’s good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. To learn the value of waiting early in life would be a beautiful gift.

If you are in a position of waiting, let Lamentations remind you that waiting is not a waste. In your lament, why not release control of your life and say, “God, I don’t know what you’re doing or why, but I’m going to trust that you’re God and I’m not.” If God’s providence requires you to wait, remind your heart that much good can come from this season. The Lord desires to teach us many lessons, and those lessons often come slowly—after we have stopped trying on our own, at the point we are broken and ready for him to lead us. In the midst of suffering, remember that waiting on the Lord is not a waste.

The Final Word Has Not Been Spoken

Suffering often involves the fear that it will never end or that it has no purpose. That is why the Bible is clear about suffering not being the final word. The biblical promises about God’s purposes, his character, and the future are all designed to remind us that suffering and pain are not ultimately victorious.

We wait upon the Lord because he is God and we are not.

Lament not only mourns the brokenness of suffering; it also looks expectantly toward what is yet to come. Lamentations 3:31–32 is filled with great hope and encouragement:

For the Lord will not
cast off forever,
but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion
according to the abundance of his steadfast love.

These verses assure us that all suffering has limits and purpose. They remind us that God’s plan for us is full of compassion and an abundance of steadfast love. Everything is working out according to his loving plan for the believer’s life.

At some point in the future, the final word will be spoken. God is going to intervene, and lament is one of the ways we defiantly say, “This is not over!” In fact, the pain that causes lament can create a longing for the future like nothing else. Maybe you need to stop and thank the Lord that “this is not over.” Christians long for the day when faith shall be sight. Until then, we lament by faith.

One of my favorite places for lament is the cemetery where our stillborn daughter is buried. I will never forget the sense of profound loss as I placed a small casket in the cold ground in the middle of winter. Walking away from her graveside was one of the most painful things my wife and I ever experienced. You would think that with the painful memories connected to that location, I would never want to return. But it’s actually the opposite.

Etched on our stillborn daughter Sylvia’s grave marker are the words “Blessed be the name of the Lord,” from Job 1:21. The words are a small protest against the tragedy of death. They are a memorial that even as we face death, we will bless the Lord. I have tearfully stood over that grave and said, “This is not over! One day Jesus is going to make this all right.” So I love to return to that grave, because it is a constant reminder that not only has the Lord proven his compassion to me through the years of sorrow and pain, but there is also a coming day when graves will be emptied and death will be defeated. Lament can point our hearts toward a future victory. Through the tears, we can still believe that the final word has not been spoken.

Notes:

  1. F. B. Huey, Jeremiah, Lamentations, The New American Commentary, (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1993), 474.

Content adapted from Dark Clouds, Deep Mercyby Mark Vroegop. This article first appeared at Crossway.org; used with permission. 

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