Explore the Bible Study: Good

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GLOOM, DESPAIR, AND AGONY ON ME . . . Do you remember where these song lyrics were sung? It was sung on multiple episodes of the old TV Show "Hee-Haw" (1969 -1992). The song was written by Buck Owns and Roy Clark. While the verses varied for each episode the refrain remained the same, “Gloom, despair, and agony on me. Deep, dark depression, excessive misery. If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all. Gloom, despair, and agony on me.” While the Hee-Haw song makes lite of the troubles we face, it’s not usually a laughing matter. The Explore the Bible Study: Good will focus on the book of Lamentations and Jeremiah's expression of the pain that accompanies tragedy and loss.

The prophet Jeremiah was led by God to capture his pain as he lamented over Jerusalem’s suffering. Not only had both the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah fallen, but Jerusalem itself, God’s Holy City, had been completely destroyed. The formerly great city sat devastated and alone, with no one to offer comfort. Jerusalem had experienced splendor, but sin had led to its ruin (Lamentations 1:12-22). 

Jeremiah describes what led to this destruction in chapter 2.  The Lord’s anger because of the sin of God’s people led to His demolishing Judah’s cities, and the temple’s destruction in Jerusalem (Lamentations 2:1-8). Additionally, Jeremiah lamented as he watched the people’s suffering while Jerusalem’s enemies rejoiced. Suffering and death loomed everywhere (Lamentations 2:18-22).

Jeremiah again highlighted God’s role in Jerusalem’s disaster in Lamentations 3:1-18. Take a moment to read Lamentations 3:1-18 and consider times when you have felt this kind of gloom, despair, or agony.

Had you been in Jeremiah’s shoes, what would your view of God be at this point? What would you do next after expressing this kind of gloom, despair, and agony?

While Jeremiah’s lament is full of “gloom, despair, and agony,” Lamentation 3:19-33 reveals the hope one can find in God’s love and mercy. Additionally, the passage reminds us of how we should respond when experiencing “gloom, despair, and agony.” Finally, this passage will teach us something about the character of God and His empathy toward those who are experiencing “gloom, despair, and agony.”

Remembering God’s Faithful Love and Mercy Gives Hope When Facing Gloom, Despair, and Agony (Lamentations 3:19-24)

What was Jeremiah’s emotional state at this point?  

What did remembering give Jeremiah?

Is it wrong to be depressed by your circumstances?

What did Jeremiah “call to mind” that helped him overcome his depression? 

What action did remembering the Lord’s faithful love and mercy prompt Jeremiah to take?

The word depressed comes from a word that means “sink down” and here denotes falling into despair. The Hebrew wording implies an intensity to the prophet’s recollections and stresses how these sufferings plagued his mind. As Jeremiah reflected on the afflictions in verse 19, he would continually remember them and that left him depressed.

At this point Jeremiah had to remember something else or his emotional state would have continued to spiral downward. What he remembered was God’s faithful love and mercy. The expression I call this to mind can literally read, “I cause this to return to my heart.” Not only did remembering God’s faithful love and mercy give Jeremiah hope, but he also made a conscious action to put his hope in God. His conscious action was due to him remembering that “the Lord is my portion.” The word portion denotes the part of an inheritance one receives. The relationship of God’s people with Him far exceeded anything they might receive on earth. 

As believers, we, too, are recipients of the Lord as our portion. Read the following verses.  Consider the inheritance (portion) we have in Christ and how these passages give you hope when you are experiencing gloom, despair, or agony.

  • Hebrews 9:15
  • 1 Peter 1:3-4
  • Romans 5:1-5

We must remember that the circumstances in which Jeremiah found himself was not of his own making. Jeremiah was calling people to repentance. He had remained faithful to God, yet he faced the results of judgment just like everyone else. When we face the difficulties that are caused by the sins of others, we should remember that we must continually remain faithful to God. He is our hope, even when the sins of others impact our lives.

And, if the judgment or discipline we are facing is due to our own sin, we still have hope. We should come to Christ in repentance and remember that the God who judges is also the God who faithfully offers forgiveness and mercy.

Based on this passage, what should you “call to mind” about God and Christ when things seem to be falling apart around you or you are experiencing God’s judgment because of your own personal sin?

Jeremiah not only remembered God’s faithful love and mercy; he also knew that waiting for and seeking God would give him strength to continue.

Waiting and Seeking God When Facing Gloom, Despair, and Agony (Lamentations 3:25-30)

Jeremiah had hope; therefore he could wait and seek the Lord. The Hebrew word translated wait is similar in meaning to the word translated “hope” in verses 21 and 24. Those who waited expectantly on God’s intervention would experience His goodness even through their pain.

Jeremiah describe actions one should take while waiting. They were to wait quietly, sit alone, be silent, put their mouth in the dust, offer their cheek to one who would strike them, and be willing to be disgraced.

The Lord had judged His people, but they could still trust Him. Those who would wait quietly and seek the Lord would one day see His salvation. All these actions demonstrated humility.  Jeremiah suggested that there is still hope for those who will show such humility. 

Believers must patiently trust God to strengthen their faith during hardships. God hears our prayers and will intervene. However, He will work in His timing in accordance with His perfect purpose. If our hardships are due to God’s discipline, then we must accept our actions, not justify them, and we should feel shame for our sins. It should humble us and drive us to seek and wait on Him as He disciplines us and as the earthly consequences of those sins play out. We can’t go on as if nothing had ever happened.

Jeremiah gained strength in waiting humbly and seeking God. We can find strength as well when we wait on Him to work out things. No matter how dark things might seem, we can trust Him to do what’s right for us.

Jeremiah reminds us next that gloom, despair, and agony are only temporary. 

Gloom, Despair, and Agony are Only Temporary (Lamentations 3:31-33)

What comfort can knowing that God does not reject you forever if you have sinned bring to a believer? 
How can this passage contrast God’s love and compassion with His discipline for sin? How is God’s judgment of sin and His love explained by Jeremiah? 
How is discipline an expression of God’s love for us?

Jeremiah understood that even when God causes suffering, he will show compassion. When the prophet wrote Lamentations, he was witnessing Jerusalem’s darkest hour. The people’s suffering came from the Lord through the Babylonians. The word translated compassion denotes the deep inner identification with the difficulties of another, along with a desire to provide relief.

God’s compassion was due to His faithful love. Additionally, God did not “enjoy bringing affliction.” It is not His desire to punish or humble His people, but His holy character requires Him to deal with sin. Like a loving parent who disciplines a child and says, “this is going to hurt me as much as it hurts you,” God had to deal with sin. God’s discipline is perfect, and He will accomplish His desired results. So, believers can accept God’s love through His discipline.

When Jerusalem fell to Babylon in 586 BC, God’s people suffered greatly. Yet, Jeremiah encouraged them to maintain hope. God was still with them, and His presence would give them peace—just as it can do so for us.

Dealing with Your Gloom, Despair, and Agony

The people of God were still facing more gloom, despair, and agony in the coming days, but they could hold on to hope “because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for his mercies never end.” This chapter provided the inspiration for the song “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” The hymn’s words inspire hope when we face challenging times. 

As you read lyrics to the Hymn, Great is Thy Faithfulness by Thomas O. Chisholm (1923) consider how this might help you or help you to help others when experiencing events that bring about gloom, despair, and agony.

1 Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father; 
there is no shadow of turning with Thee; 
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not; 
as Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
all I have needed Thy hand hath provided:
great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

2 Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest;
sun, moon, and stars in their courses above
join with all nature in manifold witness
to Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love. [Refrain]

3 Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow:
blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside! [Refrain]

If Jeremiah could affirm God’s faithfulness in the darkest hour in Old Testament history, we also can affirm God’s faithfulness amidst whatever we face.

The downloadable teaching helps provide more details for this study, along with some tools you can use in guiding a group Bible study. 

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LifeWay Explore The Bible Resources

These teaching helps are intended to be used as a supplement to your study of Lifeway's Explore the Bible curriculum resources. Portions of this material are taken directly from content copyrighted to Lifeway Christian Resources Explore the Bible and is used with permission.  This material has not been reviewed by Lifeway Christian Resources. 

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