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The Meaning of Suffering

I am a man who has seen the suffering
    that comes from the rod of the Lord’s anger.
He led me
    into darkness, not light.
He turned his hand against me
    again and again, all day long.

He wore out my flesh and skin
    and broke my bones.
He surrounded me with sadness
    and attacked me with grief.
He made me sit in the dark,
    like those who have been dead a long time.

He shut me in so I could not get out;
    he put heavy chains on me.
I cry out and beg for help,
    but he ignores my prayer.
He blocked my way with a stone wall
    and led me in the wrong direction.

10 He is like a bear ready to attack me,
    like a lion in hiding.
11 He led me the wrong way and let me stray
    and left me without help.
12 He prepared to shoot his bow
    and made me the target for his arrows.

13 He shot me in the kidneys
    with the arrows from his bag.
14 I was a joke to all my people,
    who make fun of me with songs all day long.
15 The Lord filled me with misery;
    he made me drunk with suffering.

16 He broke my teeth with gravel
    and trampled me into the dirt.
17 I have no more peace.
    I have forgotten what happiness is.
18 I said, “My strength is gone,
    and I have no hope in the Lord.”

19 Lord, remember my suffering and my misery,
    my sorrow and trouble.
20 Please remember me
    and think about me.
21 But I have hope
    when I think of this:

22 The Lord’s love never ends;
    his mercies never stop.
23 They are new every morning;
    Lord, your loyalty is great.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is mine,
    so I hope in him.”

25 The Lord is good to those who hope in him,
    to those who seek him.
26 It is good to wait quietly
    for the Lord to save.
27 It is good for someone to work hard
    while he is young.

28 He should sit alone and be quiet;
    the Lord has given him hard work to do.
29 He should bow down to the ground;
    maybe there is still hope.
30 He should let anyone slap his cheek;
    he should be filled with shame.

31 The Lord will not reject
    his people forever.
32 Although he brings sorrow,
    he also has mercy and great love.
33 He does not like to punish people
    or make them sad.

34 He sees if any prisoner of the earth
    is crushed under his feet;
35 he sees if someone is treated unfairly
    before the Most High God;
36 the Lord sees
    if someone is cheated in his case in court.

37 Nobody can speak and have it happen
    unless the Lord commands it.
38 Both bad and good things
    come by the command of the Most High God.
39 No one should complain
    when he is punished for his sins.

40 Let us examine and see what we have done
    and then return to the Lord.
41 Let us lift up our hands and pray from our hearts
    to God in heaven:
42 “We have sinned and turned against you,
    and you have not forgiven us.

43 “You wrapped yourself in anger and chased us;
    you killed us without mercy.
44 You wrapped yourself in a cloud,
    and no prayer could get through.
45 You made us like scum and trash
    among the other nations.

46 “All of our enemies
    open their mouths and speak against us.
47 We have been frightened and fearful,
    ruined and destroyed.”
48 Streams of tears flow from my eyes,
    because my people are destroyed.

49 My tears flow continually,
    without stopping,
50 until the Lord looks down
    and sees from heaven.
51 I am sad when I see
    what has happened to all the women of my city.

52 Those who are my enemies for no reason
    hunted me like a bird.
53 They tried to kill me in a pit;
    they threw stones at me.
54 Water came up over my head,
    and I said, “I am going to die.”
55 I called out to you, Lord,
    from the bottom of the pit.
56 You heard me calling, “Do not close your ears
    and ignore my gasps and shouts.”
57 You came near when I called to you;
    you said, “Don’t be afraid.”

58 Lord, you have taken my case
    and given me back my life.
59 Lord, you have seen how I have been wronged.
    Now judge my case for me.
60 You have seen how my enemies took revenge on me
    and made evil plans against me.

61 Lord, you have heard their insults
    and all their evil plans against me.
62 The words and thoughts of my enemies
    are against me all the time.
63 Look! In everything they do
    they make fun of me with songs.

64 Pay them back, Lord,
    for what they have done.
65 Make them stubborn,
    and put your curse on them.
66 Chase them in anger, Lord,
    and destroy them from under your heavens.

[a]I am the man who has seen affliction(A)
    by the rod of the Lord’s wrath.(B)
He has driven me away and made me walk
    in darkness(C) rather than light;
indeed, he has turned his hand against me(D)
    again and again, all day long.

He has made my skin and my flesh grow old(E)
    and has broken my bones.(F)
He has besieged me and surrounded me
    with bitterness(G) and hardship.(H)
He has made me dwell in darkness
    like those long dead.(I)

He has walled me in so I cannot escape;(J)
    he has weighed me down with chains.(K)
Even when I call out or cry for help,(L)
    he shuts out my prayer.(M)
He has barred(N) my way with blocks of stone;
    he has made my paths crooked.(O)

10 Like a bear lying in wait,
    like a lion(P) in hiding,(Q)
11 he dragged me from the path and mangled(R) me
    and left me without help.
12 He drew his bow(S)
    and made me the target(T) for his arrows.(U)

13 He pierced(V) my heart
    with arrows from his quiver.(W)
14 I became the laughingstock(X) of all my people;(Y)
    they mock me in song(Z) all day long.
15 He has filled me with bitter herbs
    and given me gall to drink.(AA)

16 He has broken my teeth with gravel;(AB)
    he has trampled me in the dust.(AC)
17 I have been deprived of peace;
    I have forgotten what prosperity is.
18 So I say, “My splendor is gone
    and all that I had hoped from the Lord.”(AD)

19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
    the bitterness(AE) and the gall.(AF)
20 I well remember them,
    and my soul is downcast(AG) within me.(AH)
21 Yet this I call to mind
    and therefore I have hope:

22 Because of the Lord’s great love(AI) we are not consumed,(AJ)
    for his compassions never fail.(AK)
23 They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.(AL)
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;(AM)
    therefore I will wait for him.”

25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
    to the one who seeks him;(AN)
26 it is good to wait quietly(AO)
    for the salvation of the Lord.(AP)
27 It is good for a man to bear the yoke
    while he is young.

28 Let him sit alone in silence,(AQ)
    for the Lord has laid it on him.
29 Let him bury his face in the dust(AR)
    there may yet be hope.(AS)
30 Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him,(AT)
    and let him be filled with disgrace.(AU)

31 For no one is cast off
    by the Lord forever.(AV)
32 Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
    so great is his unfailing love.(AW)
33 For he does not willingly bring affliction
    or grief to anyone.(AX)

34 To crush underfoot
    all prisoners in the land,
35 to deny people their rights
    before the Most High,(AY)
36 to deprive them of justice—
    would not the Lord see such things?(AZ)

37 Who can speak and have it happen
    if the Lord has not decreed it?(BA)
38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
    that both calamities and good things come?(BB)
39 Why should the living complain
    when punished for their sins?(BC)

40 Let us examine our ways and test them,(BD)
    and let us return to the Lord.(BE)
41 Let us lift up our hearts and our hands
    to God in heaven,(BF) and say:
42 “We have sinned and rebelled(BG)
    and you have not forgiven.(BH)

43 “You have covered yourself with anger and pursued(BI) us;
    you have slain without pity.(BJ)
44 You have covered yourself with a cloud(BK)
    so that no prayer(BL) can get through.(BM)
45 You have made us scum(BN) and refuse
    among the nations.

46 “All our enemies have opened their mouths
    wide(BO) against us.(BP)
47 We have suffered terror and pitfalls,(BQ)
    ruin and destruction.(BR)
48 Streams of tears(BS) flow from my eyes(BT)
    because my people are destroyed.(BU)

49 My eyes will flow unceasingly,
    without relief,(BV)
50 until the Lord looks down
    from heaven and sees.(BW)
51 What I see brings grief to my soul
    because of all the women of my city.

52 Those who were my enemies without cause
    hunted me like a bird.(BX)
53 They tried to end my life in a pit(BY)
    and threw stones at me;
54 the waters closed over my head,(BZ)
    and I thought I was about to perish.(CA)

55 I called on your name, Lord,
    from the depths(CB) of the pit.(CC)
56 You heard my plea:(CD) “Do not close your ears
    to my cry for relief.”
57 You came near(CE) when I called you,
    and you said, “Do not fear.”(CF)

58 You, Lord, took up my case;(CG)
    you redeemed my life.(CH)
59 Lord, you have seen the wrong done to me.(CI)
    Uphold my cause!(CJ)
60 You have seen the depth of their vengeance,
    all their plots against me.(CK)

61 Lord, you have heard their insults,(CL)
    all their plots against me—
62 what my enemies whisper and mutter
    against me all day long.(CM)
63 Look at them! Sitting or standing,
    they mock me in their songs.(CN)

64 Pay them back what they deserve, Lord,
    for what their hands have done.(CO)
65 Put a veil over their hearts,(CP)
    and may your curse be on them!
66 Pursue(CQ) them in anger and destroy them
    from under the heavens of the Lord.

Footnotes

  1. Lamentations 3:1 This chapter is an acrostic poem; the verses of each stanza begin with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and the verses within each stanza begin with the same letter.

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