August 3, 2012
By Skip Heitzig
The book of Lamentations is a funeral dirge. Jeremiah is witnessing the death of his nation. Yet, in the midst of all the sorrow in the book, we find him praising God. Imagine…after seeing the walls broken down, the gates burned with fire, and the people taken away captive, he is saying “Great is your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion…therefore I hope in Him” (Lamentations 3:23-24). But who else does he have? Who else can he rely on?
When you are in suffering, when trouble is around you, one of the best things you can do, Jeremiah says in this chapter, is to just be alone with Him and sit quietly and reflect, because God has allowed this thing to come upon you for a purpose. It should always be a time of self-examination.
I don’t know why, but sometimes we try to “protect” God by taking away His power. What I mean is, we say, “God would never allow that!” But God loves you enough to take you to radical extremes to teach you lessons. (Think about Jonah!)
It is true that “He does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men” (v. 33). But sometimes it’s our fault. Look at verse 39: “Why should a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?” In other words, if you do something really dumb and sinful, it’s not smart to turn around and shake your fist at God when you suffer the consequences for it!
When I find myself in a grievous trial, in despair and desolation, the first thing I do is go through a mental checklist. I ask, “Did I do anything to cause this? Did I sow something that I’m now reaping? Is this my own fault?”
If I search my heart and say, “No, it really isn’t. It just happened; it came out of the blue,” then I go down my list. I seek to discover what lessons God is trying to show me. James says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). So I pray, “God, give me wisdom. What do you want to show me? You’ve allowed this to come upon me, and I want to learn the lesson now, so I can ‘graduate.’ So please, Lord, give me wisdom so I know how to respond.”
And then if I can’t come up with any reason why this has happened, I cling to one scripture verse that has comforted me more than any other, Romans 8:28: “In all things God works for the good of those who love him” (NIV).
You know what? There are times when you’ve just got to trust that God knows what He’s doing. He’s sovereign, He’s righteous, and He’s doing something for my own good. I don’t know what. I can’t see any glimmer of light. However, there’s one thing I know, and that is God is good. And you’ve got to cling to that.
“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. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him’” (Lamentations 3:21-24, ESV).
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