Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” (Lam 3:19-24)
If you have read the entire lament, the first thing you will think is, "Wait a minute! The writer just said in verse 18 that his hope has perished." Evidently, according to Evan and Marie Blackmore in Let Us Search Our Ways, this is a type of construction common to Hebrew poetry where a thought is put out for consideration and then discussed. Eventually the writer dismisses the notion of a lost hope. And why? Because of "the steadfast love of the Lord."
"Steadfast love," or "lovingkindness" in other versions, is covenant language. After a while you begin to recognize certain words and phrases that automatically point to the covenant God made with His people. Despite the people's failure to keep that covenant, God continues to keep his promises to Abraham and David. He continues to love these feckless, unfaithful children of His because He is righteous, not because they are.
The ASV on 3:22 makes this most apparent. It is of Jehovah's lovingkindnesses [steadfast love] that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. (Lam 3:22)
Even looking at all the horrible things that have happened to the people, the writer says that without God's love, things would be even worse. The fact that God's care for them can be seen at all—they are still alive!--gives them hope.
Later on the writer lists three reasons to hope:
1) For the Lord will not cast off forever, (v 31). Even this well-deserved punishment will come to an end.
2) But, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love. (Lam 3:32) After the punishment God will show pity and compassion on His people. He will once again bless them.
3) For he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men. (Lam 3:33). God did not send this punishment because it pleased him, but to bring about repentance and to repair the broken relationship.
And so in the midst of our trials today, we can still have hope. Remember that it will eventually end. "This too shall pass," we often say, and it will. Not only that, but God will have pity on us. His blessings will not cease. We may just have to look a little harder for them for a while. And God never sends trials out of spite. Even if our trials are not for punishment as theirs were, God always has some goal in mind—strength, clarity, wisdom—something that He expects us to glean from our troubles. They are never pointless.
And God's compassion never fails. No matter how bad things are, His goodness is visible in something close by. Thorns may pierce, but the roses still bloom. Bees may sting, but they still make honey. God has not promised that we will never travel through dark valleys, but He has promised to go through them with us. Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me" Psalm 23:4.
Add to all that this one constant: grace. The worst day we ever have is better than we deserve. If you cannot see the hope in your trials, you will ultimately fail them.
The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. (Lam 3:25-27)