When Life Falls Apart (Lamentations 3:20-21)

shattered glass

Big Idea: Expect that your life may fall apart. Express the pain to God. But then count on his character and his promises that will not change even when you can’t see it.

What do you do when your life falls apart?

I used to think, if you are a follower of Jesus, that your life would never fall apart. I guess I believed in a subtle version of the prosperity gospel. I knew we’d still experience problems: our cars would break down, we’d get stuck in traffic jams, that kind of thing. But I didn’t really have a category for our lives completely falling apart. I didn’t have categories for the big tragedies of life, things that only happen to other people, things like:

  • having a child take her life
  • experiencing crushing depression and anxiety
  • losing your business due to events beyond your control
  • having your kid go through a divorce and losing access to a daughter-in-law you loved, as well as to grandchildren who mean the world to you

I could go on.

I knew we would suffer. But I think I believed that our suffering would be small, and that God would protect us from really big things that could cause our lives to fall apart.

I was wrong.

There will come a time when you will suffer. Some of you are there right now. There will come a time when it feels like your life is falling apart. What do you do when this happens? What should we do when we’re going through a tragedy we never thought we’d experience, when, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1, we’re burdened beyond our strength and we despair of life itself?

Three Lessons on Suffering

This morning, I want to look at a little-known book of the Bible with you. It’s a book called Lamentations, probably written by the prophet Jeremiah.

It’s going to give us three lessons on what to do when our lives fall apart. Let me get right into it with you. What should you do when your life falls apart? It gives us three lessons:

First, expect it (3:1-18).

I mentioned that we’re looking at a book called Lamentations today. You can tell why this book isn’t very well known. I looked up the definition of lamentation, and it means:

…an expression of deep sorrow, mourning, or regret. It often involves crying, wailing, or other vocal expressions of grief. Lamentations can be found in various forms, such as poetry, music, or written texts, and are used to convey profound emotional pain or sadness, often in response to loss or tragedy.

You can understand why people wouldn’t be lining up to read a book like that. It can be uncomfortable to be around someone who’s going through deep pain. And it’s certainly uncomfortable to hear them express that grief, often in very raw terms. There’s a reason why Lamentations isn’t the most popular book in the Bible. Nobody loves to read a series of funeral dirges.

Just look at the opening lines of the book:

How lonely sits the city
that was full of people!
How like a widow has she become,
she who was great among the nations!
She who was a princess among the provinces
has become a slave.
(Lamentations 1:1)

Lamentations was written after the most powerful empire in the world came and conquered Jerusalem in 586 BC. You can read about these events in 2 Kings 24 and 25. This was the worst thing to happen in the entire history of God’s people up until that time.

God had promised the land to Abraham. David had conquered the city and made Jerusalem Israel’s capital. God had promised David that he would establish the throne of his offspring forever. David’s son Solomon built a temple there. It was where God lived on earth. Every king since David had lived in this city. It’s where the priests carried out all the sacrifices that God had commanded.

But in 586 BC, after 500 years, the Babylonians completely destroyed the city, including the temple. The Babylonians carted off a lot of the people to Babylon some 700 miles away. This was probably the lowest moment in the whole history of the Bible up until that point. And so the author of this book writes a series of five poems reflecting on the disaster that had happened, expressing the pain and confusion that had followed the destruction of Jerusalem.

Here’s the thing. If Lamentations was written by Jeremiah, he’d prophesied what had happened. He knew that Israel had deserted God. But he was still overwhelmed by what he’d seen. And so you get a whole book of lament. You get verses like the poem we’re looking at today in which the author struggles to find any hope:

I am the man who has seen affliction
under the rod of his wrath;
he has driven and brought me
into darkness without any light;
surely against me he turns his hand
again and again the whole day long.
He has made my flesh and my skin waste away;
he has broken my bones;
he has besieged and enveloped me
with bitterness and tribulation;
he has made me dwell in darkness
like the dead of long ago.
(Lamentations 3:1–6)

Verses 1 to 18 are a description of the writer’s anguish. In verses 1 to 18, he takes the suffering of what happened in the city and personifies it as if it happened to him. He sees God as the cause of the suffering. He views God has his tormenter in verses 4 to 6, as a prison warden who won’t let him escape his pain in verses 7 to 9, as a wild animal who keeps attacking in verses 10 to 11, as a hunter who’s stalking him in verses 12 to 14.

As a result, he loses all hope. He can’t take what has happened to him. He can’t find any solution to his pain. In verse 18 he says, “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the LORD.”

This is a vivid account of someone who is experiencing profound hurt at the hands of God even though he had done nothing wrong. This is one of the good guys! What he expresses in this chapter is what many of us will experience at some point in our lives: crushing disappointment and pain, darkness without any light, bitterness and tribulation, questions without answer. Don’t be surprised when you suffer. Expect it.

There will come a time that you may feel tormented by God, cornered by God, attacked by him, completely without hope.

It reminds me of Dr. Helen Roseveare, a famous English missionary who, one horrible evening, was brutally assaulted. She wrote:

On that dreadful night, beaten and bruised, terrified and tormented, unutterably alone, I had felt at last God had failed me. Surely He could have stepped in earlier, surely things need not have gone that far. I had reached what seemed to be the ultimate depth of despairing nothingness.

I hope you never go through this, but don’t be surprised if you do. Expect that your life could fall apart. Expect suffering as a normal part of the Christian life. Don’t buy into the belief that suffering is unusual or a sign that something is wrong in your life. I love what the British preacher Charles Spurgeon once said speaking of a believer who is in deep trouble. “This is no unusual position for an heir of glory,” he wrote. “A Christian man is seldom long at ease: the believer in Jesus Christ through much tribulation inherits the kingdom.”

Expect it. But then Lamentations verses 19 to 20 gives us a second lesson.

Two: Express it (3:19-20).

In verses 19 and 20 he says:

Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
the wormwood and the gall!
My soul continually remembers it
and is bowed down within me.

In verse 18, he says that his endurance has perished, and so has his hope from the LORD. Man, I’ve been there. But in the very next verse he cries out to God and asks God to remember his sufferings. His soul remembers it; he wants God to remember it as well. He pleads with God.

This is one of the keys when you’re going through unbelievable pain: you’re going to express it to someone. It’s going to come out somehow. The writer here shows the best way to express it: express it to God. Bring it to his attention. Ask for his care for you. Ask him to remember what you’re going through. Even when you’ve lost hope in him, keep coming to him.

The Bible is full of stories of people who are in anguish but come to God with their pain. I don’t know where I got the idea, but I used to think that I couldn’t express how I felt to God. But the longer you study the Bible, the more you see prayers like this expressing anguish to God and asking him to do something about it. There’s a reason why over 40% of the psalms are psalms of lament. They give us permission to express our anguish to God. We don’t need to minimize our pain or pretend it doesn’t exist. We can bring our pain to God.

One author (Mark Vroegop) writes, “Lament is the honest cry of a hurting heart wrestling with the paradox of pain and the promise of God’s goodness.” I love that. We’re allowed to cry out honestly as we wrestle with the paradox of pain and the promise of God’s goodness. Expect suffering, but then bring that suffering to God and express it to him.

Lamentations gives us one more lesson, and it’s found in the most famous passage in the entire book. Here’s the third lesson on what to do when your life falls apart. Expect it, express it to God, and:

Three: Remind yourself of his character and his promises (3:21-24).

There’s this book called The Moon is Always Round. The book teaches a boy: What shape is the moon? It sometimes looks like a crescent, a wedge, or a squashed circle. But the father teaches the boy, “The moon is always round, even when you can’t see all of it.”

That little boy is so excited when his mother announces that he’s going to have a sister. But he waited at the hospital to meet his little sister, but never did. He attended a funeral for the sister that he had never met. He didn’t understand it. But his father kept asking him, “What shape is the moon?” And he kept answering, “The moon is still round.” His Dad asked him, “What does this mean?” And the boy knew: “God is always good, even when it doesn’t look like it.” Though we sometimes see only a sliver of God’s goodness, and though he sometimes seems to be, like the moon, hidden or absent, God is still here. He is still good. No shadow can change his fullness or goodness. God is always good, even when we cannot see it, just like the moon is always round, even when we cannot see all of it.

In verses 21 to 24, in the middle of his despair, the writer reminds himself:

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;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
(Lamentations 3:21-24)

In the middle of his pain, he reminded himself: God’s love hasn’t changed. God’s love and compassion don’t wear out, grow weak, or vanish. In fact, they are new every morning. They never run out. There’s an inexhaustible supply of God’s mercies that’s continually refreshed every day.

Our whole world may fall apart, but God’s promises to us will not fail. His faithfulness to us does not change even when our lives fall apart. God has promised to save his people from sin, death, and destruction, and he’s promised that nothing can separate us from his love. “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)

Therefore, we can wait for him. Things may be bad now, but God will make them good again. Even when it doesn’t look like it, the moon is still round, God is still good, and we can count on him.

Friends, life is hard, and God is good. No matter how hard life may be, the moon is still round, and God is still good. His faithfulness will never run out. You can lose everything, but you will never lose God and his promises.

God hasn’t just given us lightweight promises that are only good in small trials. He’s given us unbreakable promises that are good for even the darkest of trials. Expect that your life may fall apart. Express the pain to God. But then count on his character and his promises that will not change even when you can’t see it.

Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash

I'm a grateful husband, father, oupa, and pastor of Grace Fellowship Church Don Mills. I love learning, writing, and encouraging. I'm on a lifelong quest to become a humble, gracious old man.
Toronto, Canada