I am often struck by the realness of those who wrote Scripture. The author of Lamentations, widely regarded to be the prophet Jeremiah, makes some very strong claims that would frankly not be welcome in many circles of believers today. In chapter 3 the author writes that he has seen affliction (Lam 3:1) and has been driven by God “into darkness without any light” (3:2). He writes about feeling alone and isolated, about feeling sorrow and despair, about a burden that he cannot escape. Finally, he writes,
He has made my teeth grind on gravel, and made me cower in ashes; my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the LORD.”Lamentations 3:16-18 ESV
It is not hard to imagine the pain the author was experiencing when he said the equivalent of “God has made me eat dirt.” He knew he was at his limit—”My endurance has perished”—and he realized he was feeling hopeless. However. The author was a man of faith, whose faith was in God. He went on to write,
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 ESV
The truth is God’s love cannot be measured by our circumstances. The extent of his faithfulness cannot be determined by the amount of troubles we face, as if the more problems we have the less faithful God is, or the fewer troubles we have the more faithful God is.
Notice where the author’s joy is found: in the steadfast love of God, and in his mercies, and in his faithfulness. God’s love did not change his circumstances. God’s mercy did not change his circumstances. God’s faithfulness did not change his circumstances. Though his circumstances did not change, the author began to find joy in who God is. When he says the Lord is his “portion” he means his share in the spoils or treasure. The Lord is his inheritance, his reward. He’s saying that his joy is not ultimately rooted in his circumstances, but in God who is loving and merciful and faithful.
We should not be afraid of expressions of pain and suffering, of doubt and despair. We should also not let those expressions be our final word, for God is our portion. He is our reward, the treasure we find in a field (Matthew 13:44-46). We can express both that we are in pain and suffering and that our hope is in God, for we live in an already-but-not-yet world. Jesus is already King, but he is not yet recognized by everyone. God has already begun the new creation, but the world is not yet re-created. He has already won the victory over sin and death, but sin and death are not yet removed from this world.
Our words should reflect this reality. We can acknowledge the “not-yet” nature of God’s promises while also clinging to the “already” fulfilled work of God in Christ.
As we spend time in prayer today, let’s pray especially for those who are feeling like Lamentations. Many struggle with depression or sadness or financial pain. Many struggle with relationships and with jobs and with health problems. Many struggle with worry over whatever life brings their way. Many are feeling as though they are eating dirt, so let’s pray that while they eat dirt, they eat in hope. Let’s pray that each one of us can recognize the steadfast love of the Lord, that his mercies never end but are new each morning, that his faithfulness is great. Let’s pray for a greater awareness that the Lord is truly our portion.