“How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow is she, who was great among the nations! The princess among the provinces has become a slave! She weeps bitterly in the night, her tears are on her cheeks; among all her lovers she has none to comfort her. All her friends have dealt treacherously with her; they have become her enemies. Judah has gone into captivity, under affliction and hard servitude; she dwells among the nations, she finds no rest; all her persecutors overtake her in dire straits” (Lamentations 1:1-3).
How many of us enjoy going to a funeral? While many of us may not look forward to going to a funeral, funerals serve very important purposes. Not only does a funeral serve to remember the deceased, but it also serves to comfort the bereaved.
The book of Lamentations describes the funeral of a city. As Jeremiah writes this book, Jerusalem has just been taken into captivity by the Babylonians. Jeremiah acknowledges that God was right to fulfill His promises to bring such judgment upon them: “The Lord has done what He purposed; He has fulfilled His word which He commanded in days of old. He has thrown down and has not pitied, and He has caused an enemy to rejoice over you; He has exalted the horn of your adversaries” (Lamentations 2:17). However, Jeremiah also tearfully describes his own emotions at seeing the death of his beloved city: “My eyes fail with tears, my heart is troubled; my bile is poured on the ground because of the destruction of the daughter of my people…” (Lamentations 2:11).
At this painful moment, Jeremiah personifies the city of Jerusalem as one seeking comfort. But, as the opening verses describe, she is unable to find comfort from those she had trusted in the past. They have forsaken her and she is left comfortless by them (Lamentations 1:1-3). Desperately seeking comfort, she turns to the Lord, the only One who can comfort her. As she does so, she acknowledges her sins, “The Lord is righteous, for I rebelled against His commandment. Hear now, all peoples, and behold my sorrow; my virgins and my young men have gone into captivity. I called for my lovers, but they deceived me; my priests and my elders breathed their last in the city, while they sought food to restore their life. See, O Lord, that I am in distress; my soul is troubled; my heart is overturned within me, for I have been very rebellious…” (Lamentations 2:18-20).
In reading the book of Lamentations, it painfully reminds me that Hell is described as a place of no comfort. Jesus described the unending pain of it as He portrays Hell as the place “where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:44). How painful it will be for those who end up in Hell to realize their own actions, like Jerusalem of old, have put them in such a terrible place (Romans 3:23; 6:23). However, this is a place which God wants us to avoid. He sent His own Son to die for our sins to spare us from such misery (John 3:16) as He desires to save us (1 Timothy 2:4).
On the other hand, God is always there to comfort us if we will turn to Him. To those of Isaiah’s day, God said, “I, even I, am He who comforts you. Who are you that you should be afraid…” (Isaiah 51:12). Not only does God comfort those who faithfully serve them today, but Heaven is described as a place where God continues to comfort His people and wipe away their tears (Revelation 21:4). Today, I rejoice that God seeks to comfort me and I will turn to Him for comfort in all my afflictions.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).