Holidays and life often don’t mix well. A loved one passes away right before Christmas or a job is lost. Divorce papers are filed and then Valentine’s Day arrives. It’s Easter and the doctor calls with bad news. The celebrations and frivolities accompanying the holidays can make the losses, stresses, and fears surrounding our particular situations seem that much more intense.
As we celebrate Thanksgiving, I can’t help but think of those who have recently lost their homes and much, if not all, of their earthly possessions in fires and floods from one coast to the other and the many who have lost their loved ones.
Such horrid devastation, against the backdrop of a holiday focused on giving thanks to our Creator for His goodness, begs the question: “Where do we anchor our gratitude when we lose many of our dearest earthly blessings?”
Let’s be real, suffering hurts!
Sometimes, in Christian circles, we can feel pressure to always be happy. A smile plastered across one’s face is supposedly proof of a strong faith or a surrendered heart, as if we aren’t ever to feel sad or disappointed or deeply troubled by the circumstances of our lives.
This is far from the truth. God isn’t expecting us to be apathetic toward the messed up situations that often befall us and those we care about. He doesn’t need our shallow platitudes, our easy answers, or our plastic grins.
We can be honest about our struggles as we endure incredible losses, painful disappointments, and broken dreams because God is honest about the sin and suffering of this world. Nothing speaks more sincerely to our greatest hurts than the suffering God the Son took for us on the cross (Isaiah 53:3-12).
Christians are not spared seasons of lament.
The book of Lamentations in the Bible is centered around the destruction of Jerusalem, including the Temple, and the exile of Judah. According to the Oxford Dictionary, a lamentation is a passionate expression of grief or sorrow. Judah had belligerently sinned against God and God’s just wrath had fallen on her. Lamentations is a book heavy with grief and sorrow.
Not all suffering is directly connected to sinful choices. The story of Job is an example of intense trials befalling a righteous man. Often, suffering comes without any explanation. The “why” behind a difficult season may never be answered.
Whether our trials are the consequences of our choices or are just a part of living in a broken, fallen world, the book of Lamentations reminds us we live in a world where suffering happens, where our hearts can be shattered into a million pieces, and where grief can threaten to crush us.
At one point, in chapter three, the author sums up his deep feelings of anguish with these words,
My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; Lamentations 3:17
What a gut-wrenching description! There are many today who can relate to the deep sadness behind this declaration, maybe you are one? But just a little further in the chapter, the author continues,
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
Even in our darkest moments, we are never without hope.
In the middle of all the sorrow, despair, anguish, confusion, and pain, we are reminded of three truths in which to hope. These truths transcend our immediate circumstances and can anchor us.
- The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.
Nothing can separate a child of God from the love of God. Nothing. (Romans 8:31-39) We can’t ever come to the end of it. It’s a love that is unwavering and unyielding (Psalm 103:17-18); it’s a love deeper than the depths of our sinfulness and wider than the span of our understanding (Psalm 36:5-7). His is a love that holds us tight when our world crumbles.
2. His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning.
We may wonder how we’re going to get through this day, and the next day, and the next, but God’s mercies will greet us as we wake and they will be fresh and new and without end.
We can draw from them all the strength needed over and over again and, yet, there will be more waiting for us. We will never meagerly survive on left-over mercy, stale mercy, or old mercy. A banquet of mercy is laid out new for us every morning before we ever ran out of yesterday’s mercy. God’s mercy is planted in the field of His love and its harvest will sustain us moment by moment. (Psalm 145:9; Psalm 103:8)
3. God’s faithfulness is great!
Our Friend in heaven is not a fair-weather friend. He will not abandon us in the day of trouble (Psalm 27:5). He will never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:8). Our names are written on the palms of His hands; He will not forget us (Isaiah 49:15-16). He will not fail to keep a single promise to us (Deuteronomy 4:31). “Faithful and True” is His very name (Revelation 19:11). God’s faithfulness is the firm foundation holding us together when life threatens to tear us apart.
As the author of Lamentations calls to mind the character of God, He has this response…”The Lord is my portion, I will hope in Him.”
What portions have you lost in this life: relationships, property, health, security, career? God, Himself, will be your portion forever (Psalm 73:26); He will be the strength of your heart. When you can be confident of nothing else, you can be confident of this.
The psalmist put it this way, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want,” (Psalm 23:1). Do not take this to mean the child of God will never know grief, or experience appalling loss, or endure seasons of lament, but every need in those hours will be met with the love, mercy, and faithfulness of our good and sovereign God. In the middle of our lament, we can call this to mind and have hope. And in our hope, we can give thanks.