“Hope on a Weathered Bench”

Lamentations 3:22-33


            For a moment, imagine a tranquil scene that easily be turned into a puzzle. The scene contains a still lake. The surface of the lake is like a mirror that is reflecting the fiery oranges and pinks of the beginning of a magnificent sunrise. Along the lake, there is a path, a path that has been worn smooth by countless number of footsteps which have walked along it.

            There at the water’s edge, between the lake and the path, there sits a bench. Not just any old bench but a weathered bench. The paint is chipped and its old wood shows the marks of countless seasons. The exposed wood has been weathered grey by years of the sun beating on it, from rain, snow, and wind. While there are rough parts which could give someone a splinter, there are other parts where the surface has been worn smooth by countless sitters. These smooth spots tell a story of time passing and lives contemplated. 

            One day, a man walks down this well-worn path toward the weathered bench. He sits down, leans over with his elbows on his knees and his face in his hands. He’s been going through a tough time. He’s mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually drained. He’s feeling lost and uncertain about the future and what it holds for him. The only thing he feels like he can do is cry out to God in anguish and pain, “Why God? Why?

            If you have ever felt like this man sitting on this well-worn weathered bench … then the book of Lamentations is for you.

            You see, the book of Lamentations was written shortly after the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians in 587 BC. A good number of Israelite people had already been taken as slaves to live in Babylon by this time. They were already questioning God; they were already crying out and complaining to God in anguish. They were wondering where God was, why hadn’t God protected them the Babylonians? And now that they are in exile, why hasn’t God rescued them? Does He not care about them anymore?

            To add to their anguish, when the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, when the city laid in ruins … the people really cried out. They really cried out because they truly thought that God had left them. You see, the temple was the dwelling place of God. The temple was in the midst of the city, in the midst of the people. The Israelites believed that if the temple was destroyed, then God had left them.

            Of course, this wasn’t the first time that anyone had ever cried out or complained to God. Rebekah, when pregnant with Jacob and Esau, who were constantly fighting in the womb, cries out in Genesis 25, “Why is this happening to me?” (25:22). Jacob, not knowing his son Joseph had been sold into slavery, refuses to be comforted in Genesis 37 when he is told that Joseph had been killed. Jacob says, “No, in mourning will I go down to the grave to my son” (37:35). When Saul and Jonathon died, David grieved over his deep and irreversible loss. Job, with his ongoing and often vocal complaints, is probably the most outspoken example of complaints to God.

            Sitting on the well-worn weathered bench … shoulders slumped forward in defeat, hands gripping the worn wood of the bench with white knuckles from an internal struggle, and rocking back in forth in anxiety … what is it that you are lamenting, what are you crying out to God?

            With a furrowed brow etched with worry lines, with messy, unkempt hair, with tears glistening down the cheeks, and a heavy sigh, with a sound barely audible but heavy with emotion … what is it that you are lamenting, what is it that you are crying out to God?

            The writer of Lamentations says before our reading, “My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the Lord. I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me” (3:18-20). We all have something, we all have an affliction, some sort of bitterness, we all have something which has us sitting on the well-worn weathered bench with shoulders slumped, gripping the seat tightly, and releasing large sighs.

            Here’s what I want you to do. On your way into church this morning, you should have received a small piece of paper. On that piece of paper, I want you to write down what it is that has you feeling like the man on the weathered bench. I want you to write down what it is that you are lamenting, that you are crying out to God about. Don’t worry about putting your name on it, just write down what is bothering you.

            I’m going to ask the ushers to come up now and with the offering plates they are going to pass around, I want you to take your piece of paper you put your concern on and put it in the plate. When the ushers are done, they are going to bring those offering plates and concerns back up here.


            While the book of Lamentations, while the laments, these burdens that are on our hearts and minds are not pleasant, they are not easy to deal with … there is still hope. The verse immediately before our reading says, “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope” (3:21). In the midst of worry, in the midst of the sense of loneliness, in the midst of the feeling of defeat and failure, in the midst of the inward struggle going on in your heart … there is still hope. But where?

            Well … hope is not found in material things; it is not found in keeping yourself so busy you can’t think about what is on your heart. Hope is not found in anything or anyone except for the LORD’s steadfast love and His unwavering faithfulness.

            “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. The LORD is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will wait for him” or “I will hope in him” (3:22-24).

            Sitting on the well-worn weathered bench after a night of despair, after one of the longest nights of life … we dare to see the small glimmer of light that is connected to “the steadfast love of the LORD” (3:22). This is why the writer leaves his night of chaos and loss, steps out of the darkness, and launches into the light of a brand-new day. A fresh batch of morning mercies greets him, and us, each and every day. As we sang earlier, “Great is Thy faithfulness, morning by morning new mercies I see.”

            As one Biblical scholar puts it, “Yes, God’s mercies are new every morning—now. But Lamentations 3 goes on to describe the “not yet.” We also live within the tension of the “now” of divine vindication and the “not yet” of our present sufferings. A glimmer of light is dawning, but the sun is not yet up. Redemption is peeking around the corner but has not made its full appearance. The new creation is at hand. It is not in hand.”

            Note, the mercies of God found in verses 22 and 23 are plural. Not one, but many mercies. In fact, the mercies of God are far too many for you and I to count. Your and my sin … they are many, no doubt about it. But the mercies of God are far more.

            And it is all because of one morning. The morning. Easter morning. It is because of Jesus’ victorious resurrection on Easter morning that we are able to take our face out of our hands and sit back on the well-worn weathered bench, relax our shoulders, loosen our grip of the bench, and breathe a big sigh of relief. It’s because of Easter morning that we can lift our crushed hearts, our hearts burdened by these things we wrote down on these pieces of paper, give them over to God and sing to Jesus, the crucified, yet risen Savior, “Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!” Amen.

            The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord, now and forever. Amen.


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