Tuesday, November 30, 2010

hope in the midst of affliction

Lately I've really been drawn back to Lamentations 3. This is a passage I refer to OFTEN, but I normally only focus on two small verses that say this, "Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."  (vs. 22-23) It's very refreshing and necessary for me to constantly remind myself that the Lord's mercies are new EVERY SINGLE MORNING and I'll often find myself writing or quoting those sweet words.

But over the last few weeks I have found myself going back and reading the entire book, focusing a lot of attention on chapter 3. The first 4 chapters of this book are actually acrostic poems with each verse in each chapter beginning with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Chapters 1, 2, and 4 have 22 verses but chapter 3 has 66. I thought this was weird at first but then I read about it and found out it's because it is a triple acrostic. And I imagine Jeremiah (the author) wrote it this way because he needed three times the amount of lines to say all that was on his heart concerning this topic. See, in chapter 1 he is mourning for Jerusalem, in chapter 2 he is depicting God's anger toward sin, but in chapter 3 he is writing about his own afflictions, and morning for his own life. When he got to that point it was like, "Alright, and I'm making this one a triple wammy because I got somethin to say!"

He beings the chapter with a very lovely statement: "I am the man who has seen affliction..."

Well alright, Jeremiah! Way to cheer me up! I keep reading and I find things like this:
vs 2 "He has driven me away and made me walk in darkness rather than light; indeed, he has turned his hand against me again and again, all day long." 

I'm tempted to stop after something like that and think, "How dare you say that! How dare someone write that about the Lord. You know very well that he has not turned against you or left you!" But the truth is, there are many times in MY life that I may not have said those words, but I sure probably thought them or felt them. They may have sounded a little more like, "Lord, why are you allowing this? Lord, where are you? Lord, how in the world is this fair or good?" But the concept was the same. The attitude was the same. I felt betrayed.

I go on and continue reading and find verses like these:

"He has besieged me and surrounded me with bitterness and hardship."
I'd be lying if I said there haven't been many, many times I felt that EXACT same way.

"Even when I call out or cry for help, he shuts out my prayer."
Again, here I am tempted to want to jump to my feet and tell Jeremiah how ridiculous that is. You know very well the Lord does not shut out your prayers! Yet how many times have I felt like my prayer wasn't making it past the top of my head? How many times have I felt like the Lord was just turning his head from my prayers? Yet again, I find myself relating... so I keep reading...

"I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity is..."
Yep. I feel you, Jeremiah. Been there. Felt that.

And finally in verse 19 he says, "I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me."
Yes. I, too, remember my affliction. All too well. And it sure has a way of getting me down...

But then a huge word comes. [I was told at very young age anytime you see a transitional word in the bible, (but, yet, therefore, however, and so, etc.) to pay great attention because something very important is about to follow.] After Jeremiah spends 20 verses just remembering his affliction, remembering his bitterness, recalling how he felt about the trials he faced... 20 verses of mourning, self-pity, downcast remembrance... he throws in the most important word in this entire book: "yet." 

Yet. This indicates something coming. This indicates a twist the to message. I have seen affliction and felt like my life was just absolutely HORRIBLE.... YET. It doesn't end there! It's not over. There's more to follow. And what follows is the sweetest, strongest, most refreshing promise in all of the bible to me.

vs. 21, "Yet this I call to mind and therefore have hope..."
Wait, what? Hope? You just spent almost an entire poem talking about how your life has just been one trial after another! You just spent 20 verses talking about how God had mistreated you, forsaken you, neglected you. How in the world are you now writing a 'therefore' that has the word HOPE in it!?

Here's how:

vs. 22-26 "Because of the Lord's great love we are NOT CONSUMED, for his compassions NEVER. FAIL. They are new EVERY morning; GREAT is your faithfulness! I say to myself, 'The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.' The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord." 

Yes! Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes! Yes! 

This is so beautiful! And so promising! And so true. And something I often need to go back to, to remember. 

I'm going to be very honest with you right now. I have often found myself in the place of absolute frustration with the Lord where I just wanted to lay down and cry out, "I am a girl who has seen affliction!" Sometimes it seems like right when I feel peace and rest from one burden, another enters my heart. Right when I find victory over one battle, I find myself in the middle of a new one. There's rarely a time to sit down, take a deep breath, look around and think, "All is well." There's rarely a time I have nothing to share when it's prayer request time. But what's humbling is that I know that as you read this, you can probably relate 100%. I know I am not the only one who has seen affliction and tragedy in life and yet I shamefully admit, sometimes I feel that way. Sometimes I feel like writing out the first 20 verses of Lamentations 3 and just signing my name at the end. 

We all do at times. We all have those seasons, days, moments when we are just heavily burdened. We all have those thoughts and feelings (that we probably aren't bold enough to put into words like Jeremiah did) where we just say, "He has made me walk in darkness. He has shut out my prayer. My soul is downcast." Jeremiah was writing about his own personal afflictions, but he was also writing about mine. And yours. 

But just as we share in his afflictions and his downcast feelings, we share in his "yet." 

Yes, life is so unfair at times. It's hard. It's dark. It's scary. It's lonely. We have no answers. We feel forgotten. We feel mistreated. We feel misunderstood. We feel like we would rather just disappear than have to face one more moment of this life. YET, in the midst of this, we know that although these things are very suppressive, they do NOT consume us.

They may crush us, but they do NOT destroy us because we are surrounded and held up by the UNFAILING great love the Lord has showered on us.

We are not consumed because he has compassion on us and he sees us in our desperation and offers us hope.

We are not consumed because EVERY SINGLE MORNING he meets us in our awakening with brand new mercies and compassions to fill our hearts.

We are not consumed because we know that as we wait on him, he is faithful. He becomes our portion and HE. IS. ENOUGH.

We hold on. We press forward. Because we know with everything in us the the Lord is GOOD to those whose hope is in him. We know that in HIS time, he will deliver us. In his time, he will heal us. In his time, he will save us. And as we wait for that time, as we wait for that delivery, as we wait for that peace, rest, joy that we know is coming... we have to let his great, unfailing love be enough.

His great love has been more than enough for me and I pray with all my heart you let it be enough for you. Fight hard to see your "yet" in life and praise him for it!


1 comment:

Heather said...

HI Jordan! I was so excited to see your comment....and thank you for your sweet, sweet words!! I am so excited to find your blog! You and your hubby are adorable! I'm excited to see you are working in ministry, although I am not surprised! I've always known God was going to do big things in you and with you!! :) This post was awesome. I'm "following" you now so I can keep reading! Merry Christmas!