rebelling against low expectations

Praising God in Seasons of Lament


Praise in the midst of pain is probably one the most difficult things we are called upon to do as Christians.

When things are going well, we have plenty to thank God for. When life seems good to us, praise often flows more easily. But when hard times hit, the thought of being grateful can leave us cringing.

Yet we are told to rejoice in the Lord always (Philippians 4:4) and give thanks in everything (1 Thessalonians 5:18). That means in hard times as well as good, in pain as well as in pleasure. Though we know this, sometimes living it is another matter.

It can be done, though. The book of Lamentations is testimony to this. This short book, written by Jeremiah, chronicles the weeping prophet’s deep grief as he mourns the destruction of his beloved Jerusalem. It was a time of unfathomable distress and anguish, when evil seemed to reign, and the future looked impossibly bleak.

But at the very heart of this book, in Lamentations 3:19-26, we find a small, flickering flame of hope—and a guide to help us praise God in our hard times.

Be Honest

“Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness. Surely my soul remembers and is bowed down within me.” (Lamentations 3:19-20)

In these two verses, we see a tiny snapshot of Jeremiah’s internal state—and it is not a pretty or pleasant place. He describes his state as an affliction and his position as bowed down—like one bent under a heavy burden. He uses sharp and acidic words to convey his feelings like wormwood, gall, and bitterness.

The words evoke sensations of pain, of tearing and rending, of a churning stomach and the taste of bile in the mouth, of a soul-deep weariness that can’t go one more step, and even possibly an edge of anger. This is not only a person who knows no happiness, but a soul who has lost all his joy, stuck in a valley of deepest darkness without any way out. It is despair made tangible.

It is a place we don’t like to think about, much less visit or dwell in, which is why Lamentations is so rarely taught. Yet Jeremiah doesn’t shy away from this darkness, not here or elsewhere in the book, providing our first step to praising God in the midst of lament: Honesty.

For true praise flows from our relationship with God. But when we are not being honest, we are essentially hiding from Him like Adam and Eve. That breaks our fellowship with Him, and praise turns to flattery.

So true praise cannot grow in the soil of self-deception. Rather, praise flourishes in the presence of truth, no matter how bleak that truth is. We cannot praise God in the dark night of the soul until we first acknowledge the darkness surrounding us.

Question to think about: Why is honesty—admitting where we are at—necessary for praise?


“This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope.” (Lamentations 3:21)

Pain has a way of robbing our memory. It grounds us so completely in the present and so thoroughly focuses our attention on the immediate, the past recedes into the fog of time until it almost ceases to exist for us. All that matters is surviving the moment in front of us.

But Jeremiah shows us that it is precisely then we need to stop and remember. It is then we must reach into our memory banks and recall the truth we once believed so firmly when we walked in day’s light rather than through night’s darkness. And it must be a deliberate decision; it won’t come easily or unbidden, most likely.

It is in this conscious choice to remember that Jeremiah finds his hope beginning to stir, especially as he recalls God’s character. For when life is this dark, it is quite likely we won’t be able to see anything in the now that’s worth praising God for. But when we take time to remember, we find that, while we may not be in a place to praise God for what is, there are always things in what has been that we can praise Him for.

Question to think about: How can we deliberately remember when pain is demanding all our attention?


“The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I have hope in Him.’” (Lamentations 3:22-24)

We have now reached the most famous verses in Lamentations, probably because these words are immensely encouraging and comforting. That comfort is accentuated even more when you remember they sit in the midst of a song of lament.

For while being honest and taking time to remember are both helpful in preparing the heart, it is only by refocusing on God—on His character and what He does, rather than on our circumstances—that praise will begin to flow.

Therefore, Jeremiah provides us five specific areas of God’s nature to focus on.

1. God’s unending nature: His lovingkindnesses never ceases. For He has no beginning. He has no end. He is eternal and unchanging. As He was, He is, and as He is, He will be.

My situation doesn’t alter that. Tough times do not cause certain attributes of His to cease to operate. Pain does not change God’s essence.

If He was good when things were going right, He is good when things are going wrong. If He loved me when I was joyful, He still loves me when I’m grieving and hurting. If He was kind in good times, He is kind in the bad times.

I may not see the “how” or the “where” of His love, kindness, and goodness in my current situation, but invisibility doesn’t mean nonexistent. I praise Him for these things because I know they will never cease to be. Because He will never cease to be.

2. God’s dependable nature: His compassions never fail. What God says He will do, He does. He cannot lie or break a promise. He will never go back on His word or fail to fulfill it. He is totally trustworthy and wholly reliable. Which also means He possesses sufficient strength, ability, and resources to carry out His intentions. And His intentions toward His people are always rooted in love and compassion.

So, although we might see only death, destruction, and evil through our tear-blurred eyes, just like Jeremiah, we can know even here God’s compassion holds us unwaveringly close and His mercy surrounds us.

3. God’s replenishing nature: God’s compassion and mercies are new every morning, says Jeremiah. No matter how much God gives, He can never run out of anything needed. Neither He nor His resources can ever be depleted. Indeed, God can give and give and give and still never have less to give than when He began.

Therefore, no matter how much we need at a given time, He will always have more. No matter how rough a day or night we might have, we can begin each day knowing we have as much of our Father’s fullness available to us as we did the day before. Moreover, He never wearies in His good giving and indeed, even delights in us turning to Him, for He intended us to live wholly dependent on Him.

4. God’s faithful nature: Yes, great is His faithfulness. People may disappear in tough times or drift away as they tire of dealing with our problems. But our Heavenly Father will never disappear or drift away. Rather, Christ has promised to be with us always, and as was already pointed out, God will never break a promise.

Now we might not sense His presence or hear His voice or see Him at work during these night times of the soul, but that doesn’t negate His presence. He is here, He is acting, and He is walking right alongside us.

5. God’s sustaining nature: For Yahweh is our portion, and in biblical language, a portion is what sustains us. To an ancient Israelite, his portion usually was the land allotted to him to grow food needed for daily life. Or in the case of the priests, his portion was the food given him for his service in the Temple.

While we often seek relief from other sources in hard times, God alone is the One who will sustain us. He alone can provide what we need each day. God alone keeps breath in our lungs and enables us to survive, much less endure, what we are facing. He sustains our very soul, which nothing else can do.

Thus, Jeremiah concludes this verse, “I have hope in Him.” It is in focusing on God’s unending, dependable, replenishing, faithful, sustaining nature that we find hope, for true hope is rooted in Him.

Question to think about: Why does refocusing on God’s nature produce hope?


“The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of the LORD.” (Lamentations 3:25-26)

Finally, Jeremiah shows us that part of learning to praise God in times of darkness means waiting. As much as we want to rush ahead to dawn, these dark seasons are just as much a part of our spiritual life as night is part of our physical world. If we spend our time chafing against our circumstances and seeking a way to escape the pain, praising God will be the last thing on our mind.

So, Jeremiah reminds us it is good to wait for God. For not all praise is loud. Not all praise uses words. Not all praise is even audible. Because quite simply, not all praise can or should be articulated.

Rather, sometimes being still, rather than striving, better expresses our belief in our sustaining God. Sometimes stopping, rather than rushing ahead, better articulates our surrender to our trustworthy God. Sometimes resting, rather than fighting, better declares our reliance on our faithful God. Sometimes the loudest praise we can give is the silent praise of waiting.

Question to think about: How can our waiting express praise?

Praise Him

Yes, hard times can and will come. Yes, we will face times of inexpressible grief and soul shattering pain. But even in such seasons, we can give thanks, by being honest, remembering, refocusing, and waiting.

For our Lord is good, and His love endures forever (Psalm 136:1).

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About the author

Chawna Schroeder

is the author of two fantasy novels, Beast and The Vault Between Spaces, as well as a nonfiction curriculum for learning discernment (Bearing the Sword) and a Bible study on Revelation (Simplifying Revelation). When she isn’t writing or reading about with other novelists’ imaginary friends, she enjoys studying the biblical languages, practicing piano, working on handwork, or sharing a movie with friends. You can connect with Chawna at her website or through Facebook

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rebelling against low expectations

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