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She weeps bitterly in the night, with tears on her cheeks; among all her lovers she has none to comfort her (Lam. 1:2).

She defiled herself with immorality and gave no thought to her future (Lam. 1:9).

Lord, see my anguish! My heart is broken and my soul despairs, for I have rebelled against you (Lam. 1:20).

A question friends and former mentors often ask me is how pastoral life is different from what I expected. I always respond by saying that I was naïve regarding peoples’ lives before entering ministry. Showing up on Sunday mornings and exchanging pleasantries with people for a few minutes, asking the obligatory, “How’s everything going?” and hearing the superficial answers doesn’t give you an insight into the details of one’s life. The truth is people are hurting; they’re depressed; their home life is a wreck; their marriages are crumbling; and parents are distraught due to their children’s destructive decisions. This is real life. We live in a fallen world.

Reading through Lamentations 1 this morning brought three thoughts to mind.

Sin always leads to disappointment. Lamentations was written after the fall of Jerusalem. Despite God’s warnings, the people continued living in sin; they continued trusting in their foreign allies to protect them—their “lovers” as Jeremiah calls them in verse 2. But now that the peoples’ lives are in shambles, she (Jerusalem) “has none to comfort her.” Hear this: Sin always over-promises and under-delivers.

I’ve experienced this in my own life and seen it countless times in others’ lives. People start using drugs recreationally and end up addicted. Their lives are destroyed and they lose everything. Others pursue more sanitized versions of destruction. A wife walks out on her husband and children on some pursuit to “find herself,” motivated by her reading of Eat, Pray, Love, without any thought to what she’s leaving behind.

You climb to the top of the mountain but still find yourself drowning in a flood of regrets.

Sin should lead to personal grief. We all sin. And as believers in Jesus Christ, we still sin. But verse 20 should be the cry of our heart when we do: My heart is broken and my soul despairs, for I have rebelled against you. After David was confronted about his adultery with Bathsheba, he wrote Psalm 51. If Psalm 32 is connected to this event (as many scholars think), David’s words in verses 3-4 should be the experience of every believer living in sin: For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.

Simply put, a believer who is living in sin should be the most miserable person you know. If not, then we have reason to question such a person’s profession of faith. After All, John writes, No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God (1 Jn. 3:9).

Sins can be forgiven. This is the beauty of the gospel. In it we hear the declaration that sins can be forgiven, that one’s transgressions can be wiped away. What would you say if I told you that every sin you’ve ever committed could be forgiven? If you’re thinking correctly you would say, “That sounds too good to be true.” But it’s the message of the gospel.

Why? Because Christ came to earth to live the perfect life that none of us could live. Sin brings death (Rom. 3:23; Rom. 6:23). But Christ faced death on our behalf so that we wouldn’t have to. If we cry out for forgiveness and ask God to come into our lives and forgive us and change us, he really will.

Basking in God’s abundant forgiveness, David wrote: He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:10-12).

God brings life out of death. He makes beauty from ashes.