A. KNOW YOUR BIBLE AND KNOW GOD
 What are the five shortest books in the writings, the third section of the Hebrew OT? (The Law, the Prophets & the Writings)
 Which of these books are associated with each of the following five Jewish festivals:
Passover; the Feast of Weeks; the Ninth of Ab; the Feast of Tabernacles and the Festival of Purim?
 What is the theme of Lamentations?
 What is the method the writer(s) use to convey this message?
 Is there a climax (a high point) to the message of Lamentations, if so where?
B. CHRISTIAN COUNSELLING FOR GRIEF
Where have all the Christian counsellors gone?
David Powlison describes "counselling" as 'Intentionally helpful conversations -that's all counselling is-look different when you look at them from the perspective of seeing God.'
The best Christian counselling has turned away form secular psychology (Freud, Jung, Skinner and co.) and returned to the Bible. The best books on counselling now once again expound and apply passages of scripture. Our maker and redeemer has given us a reliable handbook for all of life.
Five stages of grief as proposed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book “On Death and Dying.”
(1) Shock/Denial and Isolation
Most of the people she saw grieved as those without hope. Christians do not need to grieve in that way because we have the answer to death in the death and resurrection of Christ.
These five things may happen to people, although not necessarily all of them and nor always in this order. They are not stages and these are not the only things that happen. Other things include:
 The pain of the thought of what one's loved ones will go through.
 Peace - the struggle is coming to an end.
 Grief itself! The pain of loss.
 Thinking about the one you've lost every day.
For the Christian our treasure is Christ, not who or what ever it is we are grieving. We know we live in a fallen world where 'bad' things happen. We are looking for a better country. We have a loving heavenly Father. Christians can grieve without the messy tangles and distorted thinking that sin causes.
C. LAMENTATIONS AND GRIEF
Lamentations is about 'Ordered Grief'.
The mind of a person in grief sometimes goes around in circles, it keeps returning to the source of the grief, unable to leave it or find any resolution.
Lamentations has a clear structure. It explores grief from A-Z. There are limits to the grief and a conclusion. It goes over the grief five times looking at it from every angle and perspective. All that can be said has been said.
The fall of Jerusalem in 587 BC is recorded four times in scripture: 2 Kings 25; Jeremiah 39:1-11; Jeremiah 52; and 2 Chronicles 36:11-21.
The darkest moment is reached in Lamentations 3:18
so I say, “My endurance has perished;
so has my hope from the LORD.”
We believe that God is Sovereign. He is in control. How can it be then that we suffer? How can God's love and justice be reconciled with our pain?
Lamentations shows us a believer in grief and suffering encountering God.
Walter C. Kaiser comments: "Instead of sporting techniques, answers, slogans, Lamentations supplies: (1) orientation, (2) a voice for working completely through grief from a to z, (3) instruction on how and what to pray, and (4) a focal point in God's faithfulness and in the fact that he is our portion. Is that not what we need in the midst of trouble and calamity? Surely comfort, community, compassion, companionship, and conclusion to suffering are all found in this marvellous little book..."
D. THE STORY SO FAR
Lamentations 1: This is about the state of the City.
Jerusalem is personified as a woman forsaken, a widow. She has none to comfort her - v2, 9, 16, 17, 21. The tears flow throughout this chapter. Here we have a lesson in how to cope with grief.
[a] We see the loneliness of grief - v1-7; Pour out your grief before the Lord. Tell it as it is. We see Jerusalem the city, Judah the nation and Zion the centre of worship.
[b] We see the causes of grief - v8-11 In a word - sin!
Jeremiah 40:2 The captain of the guard took Jeremiah and said to him, “The LORD your God pronounced this disaster against this place.
v3 The LORD has brought it about, and has done as he said. Because you sinned against the LORD and did not obey his voice, this thing has come upon you.
Twenty different words for God's anger and wrath are used in Lamentations. Job is about 'innocent suffering', Lamentations where there is an element of God's punishment or discipline.
[c] The purpose of grief - v12-17; To turn us back to the Lord.
[d] The confession grief makes - v18-22; The Lord has been in the right.
Lamentations 2: Suffering is always personal.
The book of Job teaches us that it is not always in a direct response to our sin, but it is always personal. God always has his purposes in our suffering. That is why we should never allow our grief to turn to despair.
2:17 is the key verse.
In the first ten verses there are 40 descriptions of God's judgement and anger. Lamentations teaches us to face up to God's anger.
What ever the reason for our suffering, for our own sin or not, we are always deeply loved by God. God calls the sinner back to his embrace.
In verses 2-17 the Lord is pictured as a warrior. It is the Lord who has done this, destroying Zion.
So cry to him - v18-19;
Zion's anguished cry - v20-22; Here we may learn how to pray in our grief.
Lamentations 3: Is about finding Hope.
The central part of the whole book, where the focus is.
3v48-51 strongly suggests Jeremiah is the author of this 3rd Lamentation and maybe all five. The opening section is cast as an individual speaking of his experience.
v22-24 is the focal point of this Lamentation and the whole book. Remember these verses are viewed against the destruction of Jerusalem and the slaughter of the people and exile of the survivors!
Imagine standing in Auschwitz and singing 'Great is thy faithfulness.' The book of Lamentations, including this passage, is read on Holocaust day.
In this chapter we see hope. There is a call in v40 for self examination, and returning (repenting) to the Lord v40b-66.
We all know we must not be Job's comforters (accusing someone of sins they have not committed) what is less well known is that we must not avoid the realities of guilt, or deny divine judgement. God wounds and binds up. We must not be too quick to reassure people that this cause of their grief is nothing to do with them. Not every person suffering is a Job! The man who speaks here is aware of his guilt, and that of his people, the deserved nature of what has happened.
v31 teaches us that grief will come to an end;
v32 the Lord causes grief but he will have compassion. His compassion will be greater than the grief.
v33 He does not afflict and grieve willingly.
What about what others do? That is in the control of God - v34-36.