This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. Lamentations 3:21-23
When we suffer loss, it is natural for us to grieve. And in our emptiness and sorrow, it is also normal that we focus for a time on ourselves and our misery. However, if our attention continues to be directed inward, we will eventually lose our perspective and our hope.
Life will become a confusing mixture of “If only I had…” “I remember when…,” “If I knew then what I know now…,” and “Why…?” Soon guilt, bitterness, and self-degradation, permanently scar or ruin a life, sometimes tragically ending it in suicide.
Where is God in all of this? Does He abandon us when we fall on bad times?
C.S. Lewis felt as if that were so after his wife died of cancer. He expressed his thoughts with disquieting honesty in his classic A Grief Observed:
When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be — or so it feels — welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away.
Have you ever felt that way? I certainly have at times in my life. What do you do when you feel abandoned by God during heartbreaking times?
The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah is called the weeping prophet. When you read his journal, you understand why. In the midst of sadness and despair, Jeremiah received hope. How did he do it?
“Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed…..”
Said another way, God’s mercies never cease. Let that seep into your busy mind.
Listen: “The Lord is my shepherd…..surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…..”
Did you know that the Lord has sheepdogs named “Goodness” and “Mercy”? Every time that I run astray, “Mercy” and “Goodness” is trotting right beside me. Every time I feel distant from God they are following close behind.
That’s what Jeremiah is saying. The Lord’s mercies never cease. They are relentless. Isn’t that good news?
“…..His compassions fail not.”
“Compassions” means sympathetic love and concern for the helpless. It always includes “involvement” when it is referring to God. His compassions never fail. His heart keeps going out to the prodigal.
Remember the story in Luke 15? The boy leaves home but the father doesn’t run after him. He doesn’t try to bribe him with half the inheritance if he’ll stay. He lets him go. Just like God does with us. And in that foreign land, the boy spends it all. He runs out of food, folks, and fun! He decides to go home. And there he finds the father never moved. In fact, when the father saw him a long way down the road, he ran to his son. His compassion never fails. When you and I come home He says, “I’ve missed you.”
“…..great is Thy faithfulness.”
How big is “great”? His faithfulness never diminishes. He won’t forget my name, circumstances, or prayers. I will never go to God and catch Him off guard. He doesn’t have to ask the angel Gabriel to pull my file. He is faithful to know exactly where I am and what I am going through.
He won’t forget me.
When I was a boy growing up in the mountains, I had a Boxer dog named Heidi. She was my best friend. She followed me on every adventure. I took her hunting. (She was not much of a hunting dog. The only animal she could catch was a porcupine. I don’t know if you can imagine what a Boxer and a porcupine fight might be like, but let me just say the dog always loses.)
While laying around on the living room floor in front of the fireplace watching grainy and gray episodes of Gunsmoke with my family, I would use her as a pillow.
One summer I was gone for an extended period of time and upon my return, as we got closer to the house, my heart began to beat a little faster. I missed my mom and dad and my brother and one of my sisters, but the person in my family that I wanted to see first was my dog, Heidi.
I asked my mom if she thought that Heidi missed me as much as I missed her. We pulled up in front of our house and I looked for her and looked for her. I couldn’t find her anywhere. She always would meet any vehicle driving into the driveway, but on this day she was not in the yard or on the porch.
So, I went out back and looked down the canyon behind our house. I whistled. Then I heard her let out her “warning bark.” The bark she reserved for strangers. I yelled her name.
I called her name again. Suddenly she let out a bark of recognition and started running towards the house. Her tongue flapped out of one side of her mouth like a red scarf flowing in the wind of a World War I bi-plane pilot. Faster and faster she ran towards me until we came together—then she jumped into my arms and licked my face with that washcloth-sized tongue until my face was red and raw.
If a dog will remember a boy after weeks of an unexplained absence, you can trust the God of the universe to remember you and be faithful to you.
So, my friend, if you find yourself distant from the Father-heart of God—return to Him. And the second you turn your heart towards home, you will find him leaping off the front porch, and running towards you with open arms.
And that is the safest place for you to be during your afflictions.