How Can We Praise God in the Midst Of Extreme Trouble and Heartbreak? #243
Hello friends and happy Wednesday to you guys! If you are wrestling with anxiety this year, and I will admit that I have wrestled quite a bit with various forms of anxiety – then I want to invite you to join us for a livestream tonight at 7pm on Facebook at VBC Salinas.
Our readings today range from 1st Samuel 18 to Lamentations 3, to Psalms 34 and end with Romans 16. We’re going to focus on Lamentations today, but don’t get too depressed, because in the midst of this deeply mournful book of the Bible, we are going to find an incredible treasure – one of the most encouraging and joyful verses in the entire Bible. That said, if we only focused on that one nugget of joy and hope, we would miss the bulk of Lamentations which is all about…you guessed it…lamenting. A lament, if that is an unfamiliar word to you, is a “passionate expression of grief or sorrow; a mournful outpouring, often in poetic form.” I’ve often said that while modern pop-Christianity is often saccharine and kiddy-sweet, full of success focused aphorisms and teachings about obtaining the blessings of God; biblical Christianity is far more genuine, gritty, nuanced and realistic. This is because pop-Christianity is based on the flawed teachings of men, whereas biblical Christianity must only be based on the truths of the Bible.
Let’s go read Lamentations 3, but before we do, let me share one interesting tidbit. As we’ve mentioned, each chapter of Lamentations, save the last, is a Hebrew acrostic poem. Each section begins with a letter in the Hebrew alphabet, and the sections are arranged alphabetically. Can you name the longest acrostic poem/chapter in the Bible? If you guessed Psalms 119, you guessed right – Psalms 119 is an acrostic and it is the longest chapter and poem in the entire Bible. 176 verses, 2500ish words and it takes 15 minutes to read it. William Wilberforce – a British member of Parliament and strong Christian in the 1800s, who led parliament to outlaw slavery in the U.K. decades before the U.S. did – had memorized Psalms 119, and would say it outloud on his walks around his house! Let’s go read Jeremiah’s lament in Lamentations 3, and don’t worry – it takes much less than 15 minutes to read through.
What a powerful and gut-wrenching passage! Let’s consider that second stanza:
He has worn away my flesh and skin;
he has broken my bones.
5 He has laid siege against me,
encircling me with bitterness and hardship.
6 He has made me dwell in darkness
like those who have been dead for ages.
What a passage! How heart-breaking, honest, vulnerable and no punches are pulled here. I have said it often, and it bears repeating again: The Bible does not candy-coat the sufferings of the world. You might be able to listen to a popular TV preacher and be surprised that the world has been suffering greatly in 2020, but you sure won’t read the Bible and then come away shocked at what’s going on outside the door. “In this world we will have tribulation,” and the Bible gives us example after example after example of the truth of that statement of Jesus. Going through the discipline of the Lord – especially at the level that Jeremiah was experiencing – is a horrible, horrible thing. And yet, there is hope, because Jeremiah knows that the discipline of the Lord isn’t permanent. How does he know that? Because he knows God, he knows the Word of God and he knows the mercy and chesed – faithful love of God. Let’s read that middle portion of Lamentations 3 again:
Remember my affliction and my homelessness,
the wormwood and the poison.
20 I continually remember them
and have become depressed.
21 Yet I call this to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
22 Because of the Lord’s faithful love
we do not perish,
for his mercies never end.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness!
24 I say, “The Lord is my portion,
therefore I will put my hope in him.”
25 The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the person who seeks him.
26 It is good to wait quietly
for salvation from the Lord.
How delightful is Spurgeon’s verse by verse commentary through this passage! Let’s close with a portion of it:
And I said, My strength and my hope is perished from the LORD; remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall. My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me. This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.
And as long as your afflictions, poor troubled souls, have really humbled you, you may have hope. Recall to your mind the fact that God’s chastising blows have brought you down to his feet in humble submission, and ended all your boastings, and therein you may have hope.†
22. It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.
See where Jeremiah gets his comfort; he seems to say, “Bad as my case is, it might have been worse, for I might have been consumed; and I should have been consumed if the Lord’s compassions had failed.” Ah, brethren and sisters, and we too might have been in hell at this very moment! Amidst the hottest flames of that hopeless place we might have been enduring the wrath of God; but we are not there, and blessed be his name for that! “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.” He still has compassion upon us; if he had not, he would have given us up altogether; but there is love in his heart, even while there is a frown upon his brow, and while his hand is smiting us, his heart is loving us still.
23. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.
If every day brings its trouble, every day also brings its mercy. Up to this day, at all events, we have not perished. The Lord has chastened us, but he has not crushed us. We have been cast down, but we have not been destroyed.
“Great is thy faithfulness.” No man can say that so truly as the one who has known what it is to prove that great faithfulness in great affliction. But when there has been a great trial, the believing soul has cast itself upon the ever-faithful God, and so has been able to set its seal to this truth, “Great is thy faithfulness.”
24. The LORD is my portion, saith my soul;
What! With his mouth full of gravel stones, and made drunken with wormwood, overwhelmed with sorrow, yet he says,” the “Lord is my portion.” Oh, yes, beloved; whatever else we have lost, we have not lost our God! The thieves have robbed us of our little spare cash, but they could not get at the gold that we have in the bank, they could not break into the great treasure-house of everlasting love. John Bunyan say, “Little-faith lost his spending-money, but the thieves could not find his jewels.” Nor can they find ours; they are all safe. “The Lord is my portion, saith my soul;”—
24. Therefore will I hope in him.
If I cannot cast the anchor of hope anywhere else, I may “hope in him;” and what better hope do I want than that?
25. The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.
Do not be in a hurry; do not expect to be delivered out of your trouble the first time you begin to cry unto God. Oh, no: “the Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.”*
26. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation, of the LORD.
God’s time is always the best time. To deliver you just now might be to deprive you of the benefit of the trouble. You must bear it till it produces “the peaceable fruit of righteousness.” When the doctor puts on a blister, we are not to take it off the next minute. No; patience must have her perfect work, that we “may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”
C. H. Spurgeon, “Comfort for Those Whose Prayers Are Feeble,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 54 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1908), 131–132.