Millard Erickson speaks of “individual eschatology” in Christian Theology. Better to study last things and how they relate to one’s own personal life. Study concerning the end of your life is confrontational. You are confronted with your choices – good and bad. You consider the high price of sin, the clear causes of suffering, and whether or not it was worth living the life you lived.
The Wages of Sin
The people of God in Lamentations 4 faced a bleak and brutal end. Their desperation drove them to the very brink. Children were neglected and worse. The people had once donned scarlet finery, and they now are found embracing ash heaps (4.1-5). Since they were the people of God and therefore highly culpable for their sinful choices, their end was torturous and painful (4.6 cp. w/ Luke 12.47-48). Even the upper strata of society is brought low. Once brighter than snow and whiter than milk, they are now blacker than soot (4.7-11).
God allowed this tragic end. He fulfilled His fury and poured out his fierce indignation. Every word in these opening verses is filled with misery and devoid of mercy. This is the high cost of sin: a face-to-face confrontation with one’s own end. It’s our pit where there is no human hope of rescue in sight. Isolated and alone we wonder what has led to all the suffering we are experiencing.
Two Causes for Suffering
The answer is found in the fact that we are sheep without a shepherd. The religious leadership in our country is bereft of the spiritual discernment needed to lead. Most are still optimistic and generally very positive about the outlook for our country. They preach peace while all the while remain a cause of suffering. They fail to bring people face to face with their sin and rebellion.
The kings of the earth, and all the inhabitants of the world, would not have believed that the adversary and the enemy could enter the gates of Jerusalem. Because of the sins of the prophets and the iniquities of the priests, who shed in her midst the blood of the just. – Lamentations 4.12-13
A second cause for the grief and pain that comes upon us is found in our inclination to trust in the creation rather than the Creator. “Still our eyes failed us, watching vainly for our help; in our watching we watched for a nation that could not save us” (4.17). “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the Lord” (Jeremiah 17.5).
Where’s the hope in that? It’s found in the fact that in spite of gut-wrenching grief and pain, God will make it right. Before the dawn of hope, one must identify the cost of sin and the causes of suffering. You trace the rainbow through the rain. As you consider your end as a child of God, consider also that guilt and culpability are gone. Death has lost its sting! Suffering is finished upon the cross of Christ! God cuts to the quick so that we might become sensitive to the conclusion of our own story.