Lamentations 1:1 How lonely sits the city that was full of people! She has become like a widow who was once great among the nations! She who was a princess among the provinces has become a forced laborer (NASB).
Christians should always be wary of their friend Tomorrow, because he is always coming but he never arrives. Meanwhile, Today is always ready to leave, and in trying to get him to stay a while, we forget about Yesterday. This verse sets the stage for the book’s cathartic movement. Lamentations ebbs and flows, moving from trough to crest continuously throughout, and the first verse is a representation of what is to come.
In life, change is a constant, and four potential scenarios exist with it. There is anticipated long-term change, unanticipated long-term change, anticipated short-term change, and unanticipated short-term change. Given the constancy of change, the first scenario is often the most preferred, and the final scenario tends to be devastating and dreadful for those who experience it, especially when the change is for the worse. Such was certainly the case for those who witnessed the fall of Jerusalem.
Notice the strong contrasts within the verse itself—a city once full is now lonely, what once was great is now widow-like (i.e. impoverished and of little reputation), and what once was a princess—a ruler, is now a forced laborer—a slave. How quickly circumstances can change! One must not assume that what is here today will be here tomorrow. The essence of shock and disappointment lies in the unexpectedness of drastic change. In one month, a Christian can be riding the crest of a wave, and in the span of a day, he could reach its trough.
The wisest man of all time has written “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what [today] may bring forth.” All would be better served in hiding this verse in their hearts. The uncertainty helps us to further rely upon the Lord since He alone truly knows what tomorrow will bring with it. Yet because we are not promised tomorrow, enjoy today. Live today for the Lord! Not without reason does the author of Hebrews say, “But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today”! (Heb. 3:13).
Such does not suggest that we not prepare for tomorrow, nor save for our futures. The prophets consistently warned Judah and Jerusalem to repent, else they face terrible consequences. For them, the change had been long-term and anticipated, while for others the change had been short-term and unanticipated. The difference being that the prophets knew the Lord and served Him when He called on them to do so. The same author who penned Lam. 1:1 also wrote “The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him” (Lam. 3:25). Thus, “seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near” (Isa. 55:6).
For those who wait on the Lord, drastic change (even unanticipated) is not accompanied with fear because they can always hope in Him. They who hope and trust in Him will have their paths directed by Him (Prov. 3:5-6), and subsequently, they will more easily rest in Christ’s words found in Matt. 6:25-34. Therefore, enjoy Today while it is called “today”—it is God’s gift to us. But appreciate and learn from Yesterday, for he has many stories to tell and much wisdom to share. As for Tomorrow’s constant arrival—leave that to the Lord.