A widow sits weeping in the ashes of the place she called home. All her precious things now lie in ruin. Her children were also lost in the tragedy. As she sifts through the ashes of what remains, she can’t even find God. She says, “For these things I weep; my eyes run down with water; because far from me is a comforter, one who restores my soul.” Lamentations 1:16 This is the way the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah pictures the city of Jerusalem as it lay in ruins following the Babylonian invasion.
These are also Jeremiah’s words. They reflect the raw emotions of a person’s heart in the aftermath of war. Standing in the rubble of his own life, walking through the carnage caused by the consequences of his own sin and the collective sin of God’s people, Jeremiah grieves! He groans! He suffers! Perhaps there is no sorrow so deep and no trouble so traumatic as that which comes as a consequence of our own neglect or disobedience. Is there wreckage like that in your life? Are you walking through the rubble of hopes and dreams, or sifting through the ashes and memories of a life you lost? Maybe you lost it due to some stretch of sinful living. Or maybe you lost it through sheer neglect. Now you look at photographs and remnants of a period of life that just slipped through your fingers. It is all gone!
Is there hope in in the wake of such loss? As Jeremiah walked through the rubble and sifted through the ashes, out of the midst of deep personal sorrow, he pens these precious words:
Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness. Surely my soul remembers and is bowed down within me. This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him. It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of the Lord. Lamentations 3:19-26
The Hebrew word for the special love of God is the word Chesed. That is the word Jeremiah used in verse 22. It means the steadfast, faithful, loyal, lovingkindness of the Lord. The ruins, the wreckage, and the ashes tell him God doesn’t love him anymore or love his people. Is that where you are? Are circumstances causing you to question God’s love? It is while Jeremiah stands in the midst of national and personal hopelessness that he is reminded of God’s chesed.
The chesed of God, that loyal, faithful, unfailing, steadfast lovingkindness of God never ceases! He never stops loving. Even in his chastening, He never stops loving. I can never find myself outside of God’s love, even if I think my own actions have taken me to a place where He can’t love me. Even if my circumstances seem to be screaming He doesn’t love me, the chesed of God remains. And it is because of that realization that Jeremiah says, “This I recall to mind, therefore I have hope.”
You have hope in the most difficult and discouraging of circumstances, even if they are circumstances of your own making. Even if they scream hopelessness, God’s love for you is steadfast. It is unchanged and unchangeable. It never stops, never rests, never ceases to pursue. The chesedof God is undaunted by your rebuff or your rebellion and is endless in its supply. Right where you are, and just as you are, God loves you. It is an undisputable, undefeatable fact that came as a ray of hope in Jeremiah’s hopelessness.
How can such a thing be so? There is a one word answer to that. It is the word compassions or in some translations it reads mercies. This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. Lamentations 3:21-22
This God we serve is a God of mercy. He is a God of compassion. This is not mercy singular. It is mercies. His compassions never fail. The Hebrew word translated ‘fail’ means to be complete, at an end, finished, accomplished, spent. God’s mercy is never spent. His well of compassion is never dry. When the father in the story of the prodigal son divided his living between his two sons, the prodigal went out and wasted his inheritance. However, when he came home spent and in need, the father, who had divided his resources, was still rich in mercy to a wayward boy.
That is why there is hope in the midst of hopelessness. Regardless of who you are or where you are here, whatever chaos or calamity brings you to the end of your rope, and you think, the end of your hope, there is hope in God! That is true because His lovingkindnesses never cease and His mercy never fails.
In the former church I served, we had our own food closet. Almost every day, people came by the church looking for food. We handed it out. But sometimes the food closet was empty. Sometimes those people came by so often, seeming just to take us for granted, that our mercy failed, and we told them “no” because of some former experience we them. We dealt with them on the basis of yesterday’s need and yesterday’s mercy. But God doesn’t deal with us on the basis of yesterday’s mercy. His love closet is never empty. His mercy never gets tired, nor does the well of His mercy run dry. His mercy is new every morning.
Three aspects of God’s character are highlighted in these verses. First, His chesed, His steadfast, loyal, unfailing love. Second, His mercies, abundant, fresh, and freely given. Third, His faithfulness. What is faithfulness? It is showing up. It is being there. It is constancy, stability, dependability, and trustworthiness. I can count on God, and I can count on Him in a big way. His faithfulness is altogether different from my own. His faithfulness is great! The word translated ‘great’ means abounding and enough. It is always so with God. That has been the experience of His people. It will be your experience, if you will reach out for His help in your circumstances.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.” Lamentations 3:24
God gave His people manna it the wilderness. It was their portion. Like His mercy, it was new every morning. It was always enough. Is this what Jeremiah means, when He says that the Lord is my portion? Later, the land was allotted to each tribe. It was given as their portion. It was an abundance of territory. It was enough. But I think it means so much more. In the Old Testament, the priests were given no portion in the land. Here is why. Then the Lord said to Aaron, “You shall have no inheritance in their land nor own any portion among them; I am your portion and your inheritance among the sons of Israel. Numbers 18:20
God was giving Himself to the priests. Jeremiah acknowledges that God is also His portion. God has given Himself to Jeremiah as His provider. We can claim the same privilege on the basis of God’s promise in Romans: He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Romans 8:32
David said in Psalms 16:5 Lord, you are my portion and my cup of blessing; you hold my future. On that basis, Jeremiah clung to hope, even as he stood in the midst of hopelessness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. Lamentations 3:24-25
What else do I need but God. He is my portion. He is my Hope. His goodness, his lovingkindness, His mercy is available to me in my need. What should I do in my present circumstances? Jeremiah says that I should wait for Him. I should seek Him. It is good that he waits silently For the salvation of the Lord. Lamentations 3:26
In Soviet Armenia, in 1988, a couple sent their young son off to school. The father bent down, looked his boy in the eye and said, “Have a good day at school, and remember, no matter what, I’ll always be there for you.” He hugged him, and off he went. It gives a child a great deal of confidence to know love like that. We should never miss an opportunity to pour that kind of confidence into the lives of our own children. We never know what might happen. Sometime later, during the course of the school day, a massive earthquake rocked that area of Soviet Armenia. There were tens of thousands of casualties. Loved ones struggled to locate survivors. That little boy’s dad headed for the school. It was one massive pile of rubble. Parents stood there weeping. But that dad began digging in the rubble. He moved one piece of wreckage after another in hopes that he might find his boy in the chaos of twisted brick and metal. Some of the other parents insisted he stop because the instability of the rubble. They tried to pull him away. But that dad just kept right on digging. A first responder also tried to dissuade the dad from his efforts. But his boy was in that rubble, and he would not be discouraged. All through the night and into the next day, he kept on digging even as other weeping parents placed flowers and pictures of their children on the ruins. He set aside one bit of debris after another and then, from the rubble, he heard a faint cry for help. He stopped. He listened. Nothing. Then he heard his son say, “Papa?” He accelerated the speed of his digging, until finally he could see his little boy. Fourteen children crawled out of that space where his boy was. When his boy was out, he told his dad “I told the other kids not to worry because you told me that you’d always be there for me!” His dad was faithful. He didn’t give up. He didn’t quit.
Jeremiah told us that we could depend on God to be faithful. His love never fails, never stops, never quits, never gives up. His mercy is always new and His faithfulness is always abounding. Jeremiah said you can wait on God, even in the ashes and rubble of your circumstances. As David said, Lord, you are my portion and my cup of blessing; you hold my future. Psalm 16:5
Photo by Lee yan