He was desperate. Fate, it seemed, was on his side. He was an immigrant, living in a foreign land, and unable to provide for even the basic needs of his wife and children. “There is no God but God,” he told me as he poured out his troubles, “I need patience to endure God’s testing.” Despite the words affirming God’s goodness, in reality he displayed little hope.
He is only one of many. We don’t have to look far to see that we live in a world groaning under the impact of sin. A friend of mine is coming to the end of life. He has nothing and no one to care for his needs. This month I heard that an acquaintance is in prison for stabbing his wife who was cheating on him. Another friend’s life on earth ended. He faced the ultimate result of sin –death. Yes, sin and its effects are reality.
Closer home, the reality of sin is evident in my own life. I struggle with my own fear, discouragement, disillusionment, pride, selfishness and other forms of sin and brokenness. I long for wholeness.
This isn’t new. Sin’s curse has affected everyone since our first parents ate the fruit in blatant defiance to God’s simple command. The world has been groaning with the reality ever since (Romans 8:22).
God’s Word doesn’t gloss over this fact. It confronts the certainty of sin’s curse with startling explicitness. A complete book of the Old Testament bemoans the brokenness.
This book, Lamentations, expresses the raw emotion of a prophet who witnessed the devastation of the century --an enemy nation had conquered and completely destroyed Judah. Jeremiah (the assumed author) experienced the loss and pain brought on by the sins of generations past. He lamented the abuse, devastation, suffering, and loneliness. With painful honesty he details this dark night of Jewish history.
People respond in various ways to the truth of our broken world. Some attempt to deny the fact by attempting to make life work for themselves. They try to create a “safe” little world in order to isolate themselves from the harsh reality of life, often at the expense of others. Others, overwhelmed by the reality, give up on life and simply “check out.” Some, like me, tend to vacillate between the two extremes. Thankfully, there is a better way.
In the heart of the book of Lamentations we find the hopeful alternative to both isolation and despondency. The author says, “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 [his] faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:21-23).
In verse 20 Jeremiah says that his “soul continually remembers [the affliction and wonderings, the wormwood and the gall].” He doesn’t deny or even minimize the suffering and calls out to God to take note. But he doesn’t stay there. He “calls to mind” the reality of God’s never-ending love and mercy. “To call to mind” is to remind oneself of something. How easily we forget! It takes a conscious effort to bring oneself into the reality of God’s mercy.
God’s mercy is not an abstract concept but rather a current, ever-new reality. “It is new every morning.” Do you feel like you have exhausted his mercy yesterday? Don’t fear; you have a fresh supply for today. Do the unredeemed places in your heart discourage you? Do the sins of others bring you pain and loss? God’s mercy is just as real as they are.
The ability to live well in the broken, sin-cursed world comes neither by denying its reality nor by sitting in the swamp of despair but rather by reminding ourselves again, as the prophet of old, that God’s mercy is a present reality and is enough for all that we face today. It was true then and it is just as true now. May you experience that reality today!