anguish...and hope! [Lamentations 3]

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One of the first places I turn to is Lamentations 3:22-24 when my soul is troubled: "Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. 'The Lord is my portion,' says my soul, 'therefore I hope in Him!' But I don't take the time to read what's around those verses. 

It's easy to search out verses that bring me peace, but I need to take in the whole counsel of God - not just the bits and pieces of passages that I find comforting. So I read most of the book of Lamentations (5 chapters - it's in between the books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel). Jeremiah wrote this lament over Jerusalem, and it's not uplifting at all, save the few verses in chapter 3. He describes the utter shaming of his people, his homeland; how the judgement of God had come upon them. He writes of starvation, death, destruction. Jeremiah is in anguish over the state of things - and that God has allowed these things. The first 20 verses of chapter 3 describe how the Lord has greatly afflicted Jeremiah. My eyes filled with tears for the hopelessness pouring off the pages. for the confusion. for the agony that he felt watching his people suffer for their sins. and then for the dread of what I know I deserve for my unfaithfulness to the Lord. Four and a half of the five chapters are painful to read!!

And then, this respite in a barren place:

This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope!!
Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
great is Your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I hope in Him!”
The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,
to the soul who seeks Him.
It is good that one should hope and wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
It is good for a man to bear
the yoke in his youth.
Let him sit alone and keep silent,
because God has laid it on him;
let him put his mouth in the dust—
there may yet be hope.
Let him give his cheek to the one who strikes him,
and be full of reproach.
For the Lord will not cast off forever.
Though He causes grief,
yet He will show compassion
according to the multitude of His mercies!
For He does not afflict willingly,
nor grieve the children of men.

He does. not. afflict. willingly. For all that befell the Israelites, and all that has come to me in the way of uncomfortable circumstances - God does not afflict willingly! He does not grieve my heart willingly. He IS merciful and compassionate, and it's easy enough to cling to just those few verses - but until His mercy is cast upon the somber and devastating backdrop of the wretchedness of my deeds and my sin and my unfaithfulness - it doesn't mean as much to me.

I need to be reminded often that I. am. depraved. Left to my own desires and wishes, I want what I think is best for me. When the Lord allows affliction, it's sometimes because He wants me to come to terms with my sin and cast myself again upon His mercies.

A little farther down, I see:
Who is he who speaks and it comes to pass,
when the Lord has not commanded it?!
Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
that woe and well-being proceed?
Why should a living man complain,
a man for the punishment of his sins?
Let us search out and examine our ways,
and turn back to the Lord;
let us lift our hearts and hands
to God in heaven.
[Lamentations 3:21-33,37-41]

Why should I complain when I see the consequences of my sin? It's true that Jesus Christ bore the punishment for my sins once and for all on the cross; but it is also true that when I sow sin in my life, I will eventually reap the consequences. God's grace may cover the due punishment for my sin, but it does not allow escape for the outcome.

Let me continually search and examine my ways, to see whether or not I am being selfish or seeking what the Lord says in any and all matters; Father, let me always turn back to You the instant I realize I'm beginning to turn away! Thank You that You are merciful, and Your compassions never fail; thank You that You are faithful to Your word regardless of how faithless and sinful I am!! Without the depths of my sin, I'd not appreciate the heights of Your forgiveness & love. Be it ever so, Lord!

Great is His faithfulness,
for His glory!

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1 comment:

  1. Hi Lisha, you came by my blog and I have popped on over. When I saw this I had to comment - this section is probably my favourite section of scripture. I too, read through Lamentations to get the bigger picture. I discovered this several years ago when our marriage was at rock bottom and my heart was brusied, battered and desperate for hope. I was reading Jerry Bridges' Trusting God Even When Life Hurts and he turned to this section a lot. It saved me. Helped me know that the suffering we were going through would not last forever, but in the midst of it, each day His mercies and faithfulness would be mine. Thank you sister!