Consider the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., the Jewish Museum Berlin, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Japan, or the National Center for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama. They are designed to help people remember, to mourn, and to learn. Memorials honor history and send a message.
The book of Lamentations is a memorial, and you should study this historic book.
A few years ago, our church spent five weeks studying Lamentations. Some were nervous about how our church would respond to over a month of such a dark book. But it proved to be one of the most fruitful seasons in the last 10 years. Lamentations changed our worship, affected our prayers, and gave us a new language in suffering.
There are many reasons why you should study through this book. Allow me to give you five.
Lament is a language the Church desperately needs to recover. Simply defined, “lament” is a prayer in pain that leads to trust. It involves turning to God, laying out what’s wrong (complaint), asking God for help, and choosing to trust.
Over a third of the Psalms are minor-key prayers that give voice to processing the pain of life. And yet, most Christians aren’t familiar with this biblical prayer language. Our congregational singing and our prayers are lament-lite.
The book of Lamentations demonstrates the purpose and power of lament. It not only serves as a memorial to the destruction of Jerusalem, but it also shows us how to pray when the dark clouds of suffering roll in. When you study Lamentations, hurting people come out of the woodwork.
The book is a poetic memorial—a recounting and a warning. It rehearses the suffering and the grief connected to the sacking of the City of David, and it cautions us about what happens when human rebellion reaches a “red line.”
Lamentations is a deeply theological book. It identifies the depravity of God’s people as the cause of divine judgment. It elevates the right of a holy God to discipline His people—even using a pagan nation as His instrument. The book is shocking. It is sobering. And by preaching through Lamentations, people are reminded that sin is serious, and God is holy.
The brokenness of sin has infected every aspect of our humanity. Creation still groans, and Lamentations provides a model for how God’s people can process moments when our collective depravity produces terrible fruits.
Jeremiah was a faithful prophet. He warned the people about coming judgment. And when the brokenness of humanity was on full display, lament was an appropriate response. It’s the voice of sorrow as we live between the effects of our rebellion and future restoration.
Lamentations shows us how to pray when human depravity has created societal suffering. It helps us know how to live between the poles of a hard life and trusting in God’s sovereignty.
The third chapter contains the most well-known passages. We love reading that “the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end” (Lamentations 3:22). But understanding the totality of the book of Lamentations deepens our understanding of where to find hope in hardship.
It’s important to remember that Jeremiah proclaims the never-ending, morning-ready mercies of the Lord over a destroyed city. Jerusalem looked like a wasteland and a war zone.
The destruction raised the question, “How did this happen?” While those questions linger and the suffering continues, Jeremiah pronounces (“this I call to mind,” 3:21) what he knows to be true about God despite what he sees. Lamentations shows us the connection between the rehearsing of truth and the resurgence of hope.
The book reaches its apex in chapter three. The remaining two chapters return to the reality of the suffering. There is no “happily-ever-after” and the book ends without resolution. Questions remain. Tears are still flowing. But in order to know the rest of the story, you have to look elsewhere in the Bible.
The end of Lamentations reflects the path of hardship. We believe while still in the dark. Lament leads us through sorrow to trust—even though we can’t see the future. So, in a way, the uncertain nature at the end of Lamentations is refreshing. It shows us how to trust when the immediate future remains uncertain and hard.
Do you see why Lamentations is important? Too many people fly by this book in their reading. Too many pastors avoid it because of its heaviness. But it’s in the Bible for a reason.
Lamentations is a memorial. It matters. It’s a powerful lament. And you should study it carefully.