Recently I was reading through Lamentations. I confess it has never been my “go to” book of the Bible for devotions. I tend to only turn to it as part of a sermon series or when I read chronologically through the Bible. Yet by God’s grace I opened my Bible to chapter 3 just before a time of unusual personal weariness. There were unexpected cumulative trials in my life and the Lord used this passage to give me a better understanding of the nature of pain and sin, as well as real hope for restoration.
My soul is bereft of peace;
I have forgotten what happiness is;
so I say, “My endurance has perished;
so has my hope from the Lord.”
Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
the wormwood and the gall!
My soul continually remembers it
and is bowed down within me.
Cry Out to the Lord
I don’t know what your prayer life looks like in seasons of affliction, but I am not hesitant to acknowledge my pain to the Lord. I have always found it comforting to see how King David cried out to the Lord in many of the Psalms and here I see the same pattern – a plea for the Lord to remember me and see the bitterness of my soul. In my life and ministry, I know many people who are struggling, particularly this past year, but I was surprised how much I identified with their discouragement in recent months. I suddenly felt overwhelmed by things that had never felt crushing before. I began to think negatively about multiple situations, and worse, multiple people when previously it had been easy to give the benefit of the doubt. My normally joyful persona was devolving into a gloominess. I was not quite at the level of despair, but my heart ached and my trust in the Lord faltered.
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.
Remember His Character
The Lord used these familiar words to give me a fresh understanding. I was good at acknowledging my pain to the Lord, but I had stopped calling to mind the truth of this promise. The Lord’s steadfast love never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. The presence of my pain did not equate to the absence of his love and mercy. It may have felt like that, but it wasn’t true. Every morning the sun rose in the sky and every morning the Lord had new mercy for me. There were no days without his mercy. There was not a single moment he was not faithful.
God’s character does not change. “Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). My life may feel like a roller coaster of climbs and dips, some far too fast and way too steep, but our Lord remains steadfast. He is an unlimited supply of grace, love, and mercy. His tank never runs dry.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
It is so tempting to look to dozens of other things or people to satisfy. But I know the Lord himself is my portion. He is my only inheritance, but what an inheritance! Does anyone own more than He does? No! “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.” (Psalm 24:1). “For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills.” (Psalm 50:10). God has abundant resources, and he is generous to his core. He does not begrudgingly offer us leftovers. He delights to give his weak, anxious sheep good gifts, “Fear not little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32).
When finances are stretched, and health wanes and relationships become strained, and everything feels hopeless, there is a trustworthy, sovereign God we can turn to in faith.
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.
Wait with Confident Expectation
It is easy to doubt God’s goodness. When the culture around us is crying “foul” all the time we can be tempted to believe the world’s distorted definition of good. But God defines what is good, so we must look to his word for instruction. God tells us it is good to wait quietly for him and his salvation.
I don’t like waiting and those who know me would never describe me as quiet. But this is not a passive waiting. In our waiting we seek him. We actively rely on his faithful character. We resolve to keep trusting and serving him with what he has given us to do until he acts. We keep looking to his word to know Him better. We keep inquiring of him in prayer. We wait with an expectation that “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). We believe that “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion in the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
What a comfort to know “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus can comfort in a way no one else can because he knows our pain intimately. “Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised-who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us” (Romans 8:34), “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him” (Hebrews 7:25). In Jesus we have salvation and forgiveness of sins. Let us remind our souls today to hope in him.