December 30, 2015

Even in sorrow, God is here

Lamentations 3:1–66, Romans 15:22–33, Proverbs 31:1–19

A lament is an expression of sorrow or regret. Jeremiah, who had done nothing wrong, still felt great sorrow at the sin and lack of repentance in Israel, and for the chastening they experienced.

He wrote these poetic and sad words: “I am the man who has seen affliction under the rod of his wrath; he has driven and brought me into darkness without any light; surely against me he turns his hand again and again the whole day long . . . . He has walled me about so that I cannot escape; he has made my chains heavy; though I call and cry for help, he shuts out my prayer; he has blocked my ways with blocks of stones; he has made my paths crooked.” (Lamentations 3:1–3, 7–9)

His response to Israel’s situation shows how much he cared about God’s people and identified with their pain. “He has made my teeth grind on gravel, and made me cower in ashes; 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.’” (Lamentations 3:16–18)

I’ve felt like that at times, certainly not to the same depth, but when I watch others whom I care about struggle because they are caught up in sin, I feel hopeless. If it happens to be me who is the one who is trapped, my hopelessness is acute. However, there is hope. God never gives up on His people. He never gives up on me. Like Jeremiah, I need to remember truth and call it to mind.

“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.’ 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 . . . . For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men.” (Lamentations 3:21–26, 31–33)

Like Jeremiah, I also need to remember my part in this lament. Good and bad come from God. Therefore, “Why should (anyone) complain . . . about the punishment of his sins? Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord! Let us lift up our hearts and hands to God in heaven.” (Lamentations 3:38–41)

While God uses Jeremiah to speak to me, He also uses the readings from Proverbs and from the New Testament. I’m encouraged that my role in life as a wife and homemaker is important to God. In a day when independence is admired and competition reigns between many couples, God’s Word still stands. He says, “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.” (Proverbs 31:10–12)

For the past few years, I’ve felt useless to God in some ways. I’ve been studying and He has been at work in my heart, yet I’ve not had a class to teach or any specific church role. Being a homemaker most of the time does give me opportunity to spend more time in prayer, which is important to me.

This also is important to God and to His people. Paul wrote: “I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company. May the God of peace be with you all. Amen.” (Romans 15:30–33)

Praying for others, for the success of their ministry, and for peace in their hearts is just as important as the more visible ministries Christians can do. I’m even thankful for the spiritual battles that come to those who pray, as they most certain did in Jeremiah’s life. I’m thankful that my home and personal life and usually filled with peace, and I’m thankful that I can talk to God, the Creator of the universe and the One who rules over all. He is available even though there are times it seems otherwise and He assures all His people that He will never leave us or forsake us. 

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