Lamentations 4 and 5 are two of the saddest chapters in the Bible. Jeremiah was so descriptive of what life was like living under the control of their enemy. The people who were once wealthy were digging through the trash to find food. The kids were forced to do manual labor that was too hard for them. Anyone caught looking for food outside the city walls was killed. Confidence was replaced with desperation, and joy was replaced with a deep depression.
People no longer gathered to talk. No one sang any songs. The population was dwindling down because people were dying of starvation. It was a very dark period in Israel’s history. Jeremiah knew they were living under the enemy’s control because they had turned their back on God. He cried out in repentance and asked God how long would they suffer. Then he remembered that suffering is temporary, but God is eternal.
You may be going through a dark time in your life right now as well. It may feel like God has abandoned you and that you are living under the enemy’s control. I know what it’s like to live through that. I know what it feels like to lose everything and wonder if you should still try to keep going. I can let you know that the suffering is only temporary. It does end and the sun comes out again. God has not abandoned you no matter how alone you feel.
I pray Jeremiah’s prayer in Lamentations 5:21 over you today. It says, “Restore us, O Lord, and bring us back to you again! Give us back the joys we once had!” (GNT) I’m living proof that God restores what the enemy stole, and that joy returns. When God restores you, He will rebuild everything better than it was. When He gives your joy back, it will be greater than before. What feels like forever is only a season. Restoration is coming.
There have been a few times in my life when I’ve been desperate for hope. When I was in my early twenties, my mom was in ICU at the M.D. Anderson cancer center. I remember living in that holding room for families. Each family in there lived day to day desperate for good news. Some families got it, but most of us didn’t. We were tired, exhausted, mentally drained, and were looking for a ray of hope that might mean our loved one would walk out of there.
Another time was after my first wife left me. My business was failing and the world all around me seemed to be crashing in. When I thought I had hit rock bottom, the bottom would fall out. When I thought I had good news, it turned out to be wrong. I just wanted something to hold onto in order to keep from from falling deeper in that hole, but everything I grabbed seemed to slip between my fingers.
To be without hope is a dangerous place, yet so many of us live there. Our lives seem to have no future, and we just want something we can believe in to brighten up the darkness a little. The writer of Lamentations was there too. He was in a desperate place having lost everything. As he recounted his trouble in chapter three, he then wrote in 3:22-23, “Yet hope returns when I remember this one thing: The Lord’s unfailing love and mercy still continue” (GNT). His hope returned when he took his eyes off his situation and focused on God.
I love what he goes on to write in verses 25-26. He says, “The Lord is good to everyone who trusts in him, So it is best for us to wait in patience—to wait for him to save us—.” God sees us in our hopeless darkness. Looking back, He used those times to shape me and polish me. Trusting God when you can’t see a future is hard, but be patient. The Lord is good and is working things out for your good. Hope will return because God has not forgotten you.
I once had a boss who would promise to do things for us. Each week, during staff meeting, he would tell us if we hit a certain goal, he would buy lunch or get us gift cards. They weren’t crazy promises, but they were commitments none the less. After about six weeks had passed, I hadn’t seen any of the things he’d promised. I finally asked a co-worker, “Is he full of hot air or does he make good on these promises?” It turns out, he was full of hot air.
Maybe you’ve been let down by people too. I’ve learned that people are great at breaking promises. It’s easy to make them in the moment, but hard to keep them once the time has come. After working for this person, i vowed to do my best not to make a commitment unless I know I could keep it. I’m amazed how many people are shocked when a promise is kept. We’ve all gotten used to people breaking commitments, that we’re taken aback when someone actually keeps it.
The problem is that we’ve taken that mindset and have applied it to God. When we don’t see answers right away, we think God doesn’t care or He’s forgotten us. 2 Peter 3:9 tells us that God really isn’t being slow like some of us think. He’s patiently waiting for the right time. I’ve learned His timetable is different than mine. I often pray that He would act on my time, but really, i need to be praying that I could be patient enough to wait for His time. He always makes good on His promises.
Psalm 100:5 says, “For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness (in fulfilling promises) continues to each generation” (NLT). I added the original meaning in parentheses because it’s important for us to understand. God is good, and He keeps His promises. If you’re waiting on Him to fulfill His promise to you, keep holding on. It’s not too late. He is faithful to keep His promises to you.
Throwback Thursday is a new feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
Rain is something we need, but don’t really want. We’ve given it a negative connotation too. It started when we were children singing the song, “Rain, Rain, go away. Come again another day.” Rain disrupts the times of sunshine and happiness that we feel. When it’s rainy outside, we say it’s gloomy. We think of the gray clouds and associate them with depression. Rain changes our path, our timing and our plans. It messes things up for us so we resist it. We forget that rain is a necessary part of life. We forget all the good that it does.
I’ve got several friends right now who are experiencing rain in their lives. Several friends have had loved ones pass away unexpectedly. I’ve got a couple of friends who can’t seem to find a job. I’ve got a few friends whose lives have been turned upside down because of choices their spouse made. For them, it seems like the rain just keeps coming. It feels like their lives are being flooded with only negative things. As I’ve thought about all their situations, Matthew 5:45 came to mind. It says, “It rains on the just and the unjust.”
I’ve read or heard that scripture my whole life. I was always under the impression that it meant that bad things happen to Christians and non Christians alike because I associated rain with bad times. When I read it in context and then in several versions and interpretations of the original Greek, the Message Bible stood out. It said, “This is what God does. He gives His best – the sun to warm and the rain to nourish – to everyone regardless.” The times of rain in our lives are meant to nourish us. Just like our yards, lakes and crops need rain for nourishment, so do our lives.
When bad things happen, it usually pushes us closer go God. We spend more time in prayer. We take the time to talk to God and to read His Word to try to find answers. Days of sunshine rarely push us to spend time with God, but rain does. When we go a long time without rain or without spending time with a God, we go through a drought and that isn’t healthy. If you’re going through times of rain in your life right now, don’t pray for it to go away. Instead thank God for the nourishment and for the shelter He provides
In II Chronicles 20, a huge army invaded southern Israel. The king and all the people were terrified because they defeated several strongholds easily. He begged God for help and asked others to pray with him. It sounds a lot like any one of us when we are facing something that seems impossible to beat. Fear is our first response, then we beg God for help. I believe what follows in this story is something we can all learn from in these moments in life.
The first thing that happened was King Jehoshaphat got like minded people together, fasted and prayed. We are not to fight these battles alone. Fear’s goal is to intimidate you and to push you into seclusion. Don’t let it! There is strength in numbers and in fasting. Get a group of people around you who can fight on their knees and touch God for you. This first step is critical if you’re going to win an impossible battle.
In verses 15-17, God answered those praying. The Word of the Lord came back saying, “Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s” (NLT). Things only seem impossible when God is not in the equation. The battles we face are not our own, but they are God’s. We don’t have to be afraid or discouraged at the sheer impossibility of anything that comes our way because God goes before us.
As the army of Israel approached the battlefield, Jehoshaphat spoke in verse 20 and reminded them, “Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be able to stand firm. Believe in His prophets and you will succeed.” Faith will help us to stand firm when standing is all we can do. We can trust in God, and in His Word, to get the courage to keep standing in the face of impossibilities. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves to continue to trust God and His Word so we can see the victory.
Finally, the king appointed singers to praise God and he sent them out in front. At the very moment they began to sing, the Lord gave victory. We need to be able to praise God in advance of victory. We need to honor Him when all else seems to be going wrong. Praise is powerful. It activates our faith and moves our God. If you can’t find it in you to praise, play praise music until you do. Victory is dependent on God, not us. We can praise Him for that. Our impossible battles are no match for a God who says all things are possible.
No matter who you are, you’ll need help at some point in your life. You will face things that you can’t do on your own. If you’re like me, you try to do it alone anyway. My pride says, “You don’t need anyone’s help. You got into this by yourself, you can get out of it by yourself.” I try to project strength instead of admitting my weakness. What inevitability happens is that I end up wearing myself out in the process. One time, I collapsed on the floor and cried out to God, “I can’t do this anymore! Help me.” He replied, “Finally.”
God was waiting on me to look to Him for help, but my pride kept me from it. I had to endure a lot more pain than necessary because I wasn’t willing to admit I needed help. Since that time, I’ve learned to look to Him first when I need help. It doesn’t take long to pray, “God, I can’t do this on my own. I need your help.” It does take humility though, but God honors that. He wants to help us with our daily issues.
David learned this lesson as well. After being anointed king, he was constantly in danger and was running for his life. He learned to quit trying to go at it alone, and to go to God. In Psalm 25:15, he wrote, “I look to the Lord for help at all times” (GNT). He didn’t just go to God with some things. He went to Him with all his issues, and God came to His rescue. It wasn’t because David was any different that us. It was because David was humble enough to recognize he needed help from God daily.
Whatever you’re facing today, God stands ready to help. He’s waiting for us to trust His all sufficient grace to help us get through life. Don’t wait until you’re mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted before you cry out for help. Let go of your pride, and look to God for help at all times. It’s not a weakness to admit you need help. It takes strength to overcome your pride and admit it. Once you do, you’ll find that God is willing and able to step in and do what needs to be done.
We all know the story of the first Thanksgiving. After enduring such hardships, hunger, and death, the Pilgrims had an abundant harvest and stopped to thank God for His provision. Not taking anything away from that incredible day, but I’ve found it’s easy to praise God during the harvest. It’s easy to celebrate His goodness in times of plenty, but what about in times of hardship? How thankful were they when they were rationed a couple of kernels a day to survive on? How thankful are we in our hardships?
I’ve found that thankfulness and joy come from the heart and not from my circumstances. No matter how hard life gets, how dark our days are, how desolate we feel, we can still find a reason to have joy. It’s so important that we find that reason too. Nehemiah 8:10 reminds us that the joy of the Lord is our strength in times when we don’t have the strength to face the day. Joy gives hope and reminds us that God is still on His throne no matter what comes against us.
Habakkuk painted a picture of dark times in chapter 3:17-18. He wrote, “Even though the fig trees have no fruit and no grapes grow on the vines, even though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no grain, even though the sheep all die and the cattle stalls are empty, I will still be joyful and glad, because the Lord God is my savior” (GNT). He was saying even though the seeds planted didn’t yield a harvest, he’d still be joyful. Even through failure, there is a reason to be glad. Even if your savings are wiped out and there’s no food on your table, you can give thanks.
Don’t let the enemy use circumstances to steal your joy. Don’t let the thief come in and take your focus off of your provider. No matter how bad life gets, we must purpose in our hearts to find joy so we keep our perspective right. We can say, “Even so, it is well with my soul.” We can say, “I will still be joyful and glad,” because God is still on His throne and our circumstances will never change that. We can find joy in the pain. We can find hope in desperation because the Lord God is our savior. It won’t change our circumstances, but it will change our perspective. It will give us strength to endure anything. Find your joy in the Lord, not in your circumstances.