Last night as I was pondering all my problems--instead of sleeping--the old hymn, Great is Thy Faithfulness came to mind. It was inspired by Jeremiah's words in Lamentations 3:22-24 and the author's own circumstances. Thomas Obadiah Chisholm experienced God's faithfulness in the everyday provision of his needs during times when he was too ill to work. Interestingly, both the Bible passage and the hymn say that God's mercies are new every morning. That doesn't mean that our needs will be met weeks or months in advance. That wouldn't require a lot of trust, would it? I have concluded that I need to spend more time focusing on all the things I have to be thankful for, and trust God to meet my needs for everything else. Of course, I might need to be reminded of that now and then!
Please take a few minutes to listen to this hymn.
I’m not very good at waiting. It is said that in Canada there are two seasons—winter and construction. We are currently in the construction season, and I would rather drive around the construction than wait for the flag person to allow me to go down the one open lane of torn up highway. It may take longer to go around, but at least I would feel like I was doing something. Recent events in my life, however, have been teaching me how to wait, a lesson that Jeremiah also learned.
The first two and a half chapters of Lamentations recount the difficulties that Jeremiah faced—much worse than anything I’ve ever faced I might add. In my post of March 25, 2011 I talked about Jeremiah’s change of focus. In Lamentations 3:21-24, Jeremiah stopped focusing on his own trials and started to focus on God’s mercy and faithfulness.
In Lamentations 3:25-26, Jeremiah concludes that the Lord is good, and that it is good to wait patiently for the Lord’s deliverance. Other than that obvious point, I think there are two more worth noticing. First, Jeremiah says that the Lord is good to those who trust in Him and those who seek Him. We need to believe that God is good; that’s the trusting part, but no one says that we can’t earnestly pray for that deliverance while we wait. In fact, we are encouraged to pray without ceasing. (I Thessalonians 5:17, Philippians 4:6, Luke 18:1-8 April 11, 2011)
The second point is that Jeremiah has moved from depression to hope, and is now at the point of encouraging others to trust and wait patiently. God comforts and sustains us through our afflictions, so that we might be a comfort and encouragement to others. (II Corinthians 1:3-4) Our hardships generally come from our own mistakes or simply because we live in a world that is imperfect, where there is a constant battle between good and evil. (June 3, 2011) God doesn’t allow us to face trials beyond what we can bear, (I Corinthians 10:13) but when we do face trials, He brings good from them, (Romans 8:28) and through them gives us the ability to bring hope to others. Trust God, pray and wait patiently. The Lord is good.
Stress, stress, so much stress. Every day seems to bring a new problem that I don’t know the solution for. I know I am not alone. Lamentations 3:1-20 (and for that matter Lamentations 1-2) recounts the stresses, the devastation really, that Jeremiah faced. The people of Israel had been taken captive and Jerusalem had been destroyed. Jeremiah lamented his situation, dwelt on it and was completely depressed and hopeless. When I look at what Jeremiah was facing, and what others around me are facing it helps to put my problems into perspective. But as long as I focus on my problems, I, like Jeremiah, will be downcast.
The people of Israel were being punished for their acts of rebellion. That is not the reason for our trials. Romans 8:1 tells us that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. But the Lord still uses these trials to restore us to righteousness when necessary and also to teach us and shape us into the people that he wants us to be. Romans 5:3-5 tells us that we can rejoice in our sufferings, because they will produce endurance, character and hope. Hope is not merely wishful thinking; it is a confident expectation that God will keep His promises to us just as He kept His covenant with Israel.
In Lamentations 3:21, Jeremiah changes his focus. He looks instead to God and realizes that it is because of God’s mercy that the tribe of Israel was not consumed altogether. And because of God’s mercy the same is true for us. The stressful situations may be endless, but the loving kindness and compassion of the Lord never end either. Every day He has new mercies for us. (Lamentations 3:22-24) Let us, as Jeremiah did, put our hope and trust in Him.