“19)Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! 20) My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. 21) But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: 22) The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; 23) they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24) ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’”
The growth of internet social networking sites such as facebook and twitter along with the creation of blogs have allowed millions of children to post their teenage angst and depression for the world to see. There is always someone saying that they are going through some trial. Some of these trials are very legitimate, but I have realized that most these trials are often about not getting the car the person wanted or something even more trivial or meaningless than that.
The Internet is not the only place that people express such selfish feelings. I remember sitting in the waiting room of a hospital one day. I needed to get my blood work check, and I waited to be called back. As I sat there waiting, I overheard a conversation between to girls. One of them asked what was wrong, and the second girl responded, “I’m dieing.” She was not literally dieing but was claiming that she was in so much pain that she thought she was. I wanted to tell her, “No you’re not, but I am”
Whenever I hear stories like these, I usually want to tell them two things. The other day when I saw one such status on facebook about how nothing ever good happens to this person and that they are in constant pain, I was tempted to ask, “Do you have a terminal cancer and going through treatment for that cancer?” This may be appropriate at times to help people put things into perspective, but it may not always be the right thing to do if I say it out of unrighteous anger, annoyance, or pride.
The second, and more important, point I like to make is about Christ. How can we complain about anything knowing that Jesus Christ died for our sins and reconciled us to God? This gives us a fruit-filled life on this earth and the promise of an eternity in heaven. We get to know and meet with the God that created us through the mediation of His loving, merciful, and faithful Son.
Jeremiah, also known as the “weeping prophet,” is the author of this book. The book does not specifically indicate who the author is, but there are some other clues that lend themselves to this conclusion. He was called the “weeping prophet” because of his love for Israel and how they had not repented of their sins, so God sent judgment upon them. He endured great suffering throughout his life.
In the Hebrew Bible, Lamentations is called Ekah, which means “How” and is the first word in the book. It is also mentioned in 1:1, 2:1, and 4:1. The name “Lamentations” speaks of a lament or of a great mourning. Lamentations is not an uplifting book, but a book of distress and sadness.
Lamentations is filled with depressing language devoid of hope, yet halfway through the book, this amazing passage fills the pages. The Lord was displaying His wrath against Israel’s unfaithfulness, but this passage shows that God is faithful and loving through it all. Even when everything seems to be falling apart, God is still there to sustain us and help us through.
It is not always easy to have this hopeful mindset during times of troubles, but sometimes we must force our view to the cross. It is very easy to let our troubles weigh us down and to give into them, but if our focus goes to the cross, then troubles almost seem to disappear. We have to make the conscious act of taking our eyes off of our troubles and ourselves and putting them on God.
Realizing God’s amazing love for us and the way He displayed that love makes this task significantly easier. How can we focus on our small problems when we know that the God of the universe came to earth in human form to die on the cross to redeem us and reconcile us to God? If we hold on to this truth rather than complain about the trivial trials we face, then we would be in state of unending worship.
1. Consumed by Afflictions
Jeremiah says that his “soul continually remembers it.” Every moment he is aware of his “affliction and [his wanderings], the wormwood and the gall!” He cannot rid himself of the thought, and it torments his every waking second. His pain is so harsh that he is constantly reminded of it. His soul was “bowed down within” him. It had given up and submitted to the pain and afflictions he was facing.
When his soul bows down, it not only bows down to the afflictions but to God as well. Times of hardship in our lives are often used to break us of our pride and rely on God. 2 Corinthians 1:8-10 says, “For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.”
This passage reflects a few Psalms. Psalm 42:6 says, “My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.” Psalm 44:25 says, “For our soul is bowed down to the dust; our belly clings to the ground.”
Where do these afflictions come from? They come from God either directly or indirectly. Lamentations 3:5 says, “he has besieged and enveloped me with bitterness and tribulation.” Lamentations 3:15 says, “He has filled me with bitterness; he has sated me with wormwood.”
God controlling our afflictions is a great comfort. It shows us that God has given us these afflictions for a noble purpose. He has shaping us through suffering in order that we may come to perfection in Christ. He uses these afflictions and hardships to mold us in the image of Christ. Everything that we go through is controlled by God, and He is working these things for our good.
God working out our afflictions also reveals that He can remove our afflictions at anytime. We may be suffering from a deathly sickness one second, then completely restored the next. God can completely remove our afflictions at anytime because He is in complete control of all of them.
I remember one day realizing that I think about cancer everyday. There hasn’t been a day since my first diagnosis that I didn’t have some thought about the pain, treatments, or effects. Some days it was only a passing thought, but other days it conquered my body, mind, and soul. Even during the months of remission, I would still be reminded of it from the scars and residual side effects. Seeing what I could no longer do or had missed brought it forcefully to the forefront of my mind. I could not rid myself of the thought of this affliction.
We must be aware of our afflictions in order to properly defend against them and use them for the glory of God, but we must avoid dwelling upon them. When they conquer our thoughts and consume us, we lose sight of God and fail to fully glorify Him. The progression continues until we are consumed by these afflictions and see almost no way out. We must not dwell on our afflictions and let our souls be wrapped up with them, but we should look to God to deliver us from our afflictions and know that He is our portion throughout our afflictions.
We must also realize where we would be if God had not provided new mercies every morning and remained faithful. We would be a downtrodden people with no hope in this life or in the next. There would be great cause for complaining because we would not have the loving promises of the Lord to sustain us. Our lives would be continual misery and shame, but these things are not true and we are not consumed by our afflictions because God has provided for us and sustained us and provided hope.
2. Calling God To Mind
“But this I call to mind” displays how Jeremiah had to force his thoughts to God. Just as Paul exhorts us to “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5), Jeremiah was taking his negative, painful thoughts captive for the glory of God by reflecting over the grace of God.
Psalm 43:5 says, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” Notice how the Psalmist confronts his soul in this passage. He calls out his soul asks why it is so downcast. He does not let it grovel in self-pity but addresses it with strong words. He tells his soul that there is no reason to be in turmoil because of the Hope found in the salvation of God.
We must stare down our souls and remind them of God’s love. We must remember the price Jesus paid on the cross because of the great love God had for us, and we must remember that because of that sacrifice we have been forgiven and redeemed. It is easy for us to be overcome by self-pity. We can look in the mirror with tears-stained eyes and ask, “Why me?” Why are we the ones that suffer so? Why are we the ones that face so many tribulations?
In the same breath, we can vanquish every last one of these thoughts by asking the very same question, “Why me?” Why would God love me so much to save me? Why would Jesus come to this earth to save me? Why would God save this unworthy, undeserving sinner that has rebelled against His holy name to an eternity with His divine presence? We must confront our souls and command them to repent of their sins of self-pity and turn to Christ. Within Christ our hope is found, and Christ dispels all notions and thoughts centered on our suffering.
Many of our afflictions are a result of not properly placing our desire, trust, and hope in the Lord. If we kept our focus on God, then losing any worldly possession would only be a small affliction. If we have invested ourselves in these worldly possessions, then the loss of such a possession would be devastating. Our focus must remain on Christ to both combat affliction and prevent the power of afflictions consuming effect.
“It is daylight and the sun is shining bright and I have a candle lit, but someone blows it out. Shall I sit down and weep because my candle is extinguished? No, not while the sun shines! If God is my portion, if I lose some little earthly comfort I will not complain, for heavenly comfort remains” (Spurgeon, Memory-The Handmaid of Hope).
3. The Lord is My Portion
God’s mercies are “new every morning.” We go to bed and wonder how we will ever accomplish everything that needs to get done the next day or bear the pain of upcoming trial, and we wake to find the mercy of God that provides the strength needed to face the day. It is not the same mercy He gave us the day before, but mercies that are new and invigorated. This mercy replenishes us and sustains us throughout the trials we face through the day.
Arising and getting out of bed is a mercy itself. It is mercy that you have been granted a bed to sleep in and a house to live. It is mercy to get up rather than be paralyzed or dieing. If we have food to eat for breakfast, then this is a mercy. If we have job to go to or school to attend, then these are because of the mercy of God. We may have been going to the same job for years, but it is still a new mercy because we could have lost that job numerous times. There are so many small mercies that we overlook and do not give God the proper thanks for.
Psalm 30:5 says, “For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” We may face trials today, but we know that tomorrow holds new mercy and great joy. We must bear the hardships by looking to Christ and never taking our eyes off of him.
Each new day bring with its mercy, forgiveness. We may have failed God time and time again, but the new day brings with it the opportunity to repent of our sins and live for the glorification of God. We were once dead in our trespasses and sins but were made alive with Christ. That was a past day but a new day of life has dawned for our spiritual life. His grace and mercy has been poured out upon us and granted us new life.
If we cannot see these new mercies everyday, then we look to God’s Holy Word. The Scriptures reveal to us the promises and assurances of God. God provides His mercy and displays His faithfulness through His word. We can read the stories of saints who were in hopeless situations being rescued by God and know that God will do the same for us. Scriptures reveal His power and might that working in all things for God, which gives us the ability to look to God. He is the source and provider of our courage and our strength.
These mercies are something that we do not deserve to receive. We did not deserve to receive yesterday’s mercies much less the new mercies we have received today. These mercies are a precious gift of God’s grace, which is something that we did nothing to earn. Therefore, these mercies are all the more precious. They are both new every morning and completely a gift of God, which we did nothing to earn.
Do we recognize these new mercies? Do we give thanks to God and praise Him for the mercies He has poured out upon us. Let us not overlook the new mercies God lavishes over us each morning. Without these mercies we would not survive, and they are completely a gift from God.
Just as each morning brings new mercies, each morning brings with it the remembrance of past sins and the temptation of future ones. Let us praise God that because of His grace and mercy He has forgiven us off our past sins, and let us thank God that He will provide sufficient mercy to overcome the trials and temptations that we will face today. We may say that the next day will hold a host of troubles, but let us not forget that it holds many more new mercies with it.
The new mercies are given to us so that we may perform the new duties of the day. God does not give us mercy just so that we can survive but in order for us to spread and glorify His name. If we are not using the new mercies that God has poured out upon us each day, then we are wasting the precious gift that God has given us. Working diligently the day before does not excuse us from working diligently today because we have received new mercies, so we are expected to perform and complete new duties because He has enabled us to do so. As God grants us new mercy each day, let us praise him with new praise, new thanksgiving, and new actions.
The hope Jeremiah finds in the Lord now stands in stark contrast to his sentiments only a few verses earlier. Lamentations 3:18 says, “so I say, “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord.” We can go from a state of hopeless despondency to a state of utter and complete praise because of the love, mercy, and faithfulness of God.
The hope is found in the attributes of God. It is not found in what God has done or given us but on who God is. When it speaks of His love, mercy, and faithfulness, these are all just characteristics of His divine nature. Many people read the Bible looking for ways to live their lives, but our true hope is found in understanding God. When we read and study the Scriptures let us look for what the Scriptures reveal to us about the character of God and that is where our hope lies.
We can exclaim, “Great is your faithfulness” because of God’s unchanging faithfulness. He has never left us and never will. His faithfulness remains throughout times of tribulation and times prosperity. His divine nature is to remain faithful and keep the promises He has promised for He does not change. Malachi 3:6 says, “For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” If God were to change or be unfaithful, we would have no hope, so let us thank God for His unchanging nature. As the great hymn says:
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!
Our wealth will not save us through its faithfulness. Money does not have any loyalty to one man any more than any other. Cars and houses do not know who owns them and will be driven and lived in by both their owner and the man that does not possess them.
Our friends and family may love us because of the love God has given them through Christ, but even they will leave us. They cannot see within us and know the faithfulness we need and require. Even we it seems they have done everything in their power to remain faithful, their faithfulness cannot be the faithfulness we need.
We can point our fingers at our wealth and our friends and family, but we have not remained faithful. While we were still rebelling against God, His grace made us alive with Christ. We would run and flee from if it were not for His faithfulness. He holds and keeps and loves despite our unfaithfulness. Even now we might rebel against God, but His faithfulness holds us close.
There is nothing that can make God be unfaithful. God remained faithful to Noah and His family even as the entire earth had turned against Him and was destroyed. God remained faithful to Israel as Hosea remained faithful to his wife despite her constant unfaithfulness. God will remain faithful to us even now as we rebel against Him and do not seek to faithfully follow Him.
The faithfulness of God is the same faithfulness that Christ had as he was tortured and crucified on the cross. He could have cried to God or summoned angels to rescue him, but he remained because of his faithfulness that does not change, his mercy that is new ever morning, and his steadfast love. He stayed not because of our love or faithfulness but because of His incredible, unchanging faithfulness, mercy, and love.
These same properties of God are displayed throughout the Old Testament. Exodus 34:6-7, “The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”
If we doubt the faithfulness of God, we can look to how his mercies are new each day. Each morning brings the new mercies of God, which are the confirmation of His faithfulness and love for us. We know of how He has provided for us with new mercies in the past and we can look forward to the future mercy of heaven, but we can also see the new mercies He pours out each morning. We can see His faithfulness through how faithfully He provides for us and sustains us.
Jeremiah sees that the Lord is his “portion.” He is the bread of life and living water that sustains Jeremiah each day. He may lack in food, health, or shelter, but the Lord will graciously provide His sustaining, life-giving presence through every moment of every day.
“Portion” may give the impression that this is only part of the Lord or insufficient to meet our trials. Ephesians 1:22-23 says, “And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” His fullness fills us all completely. Ephesians 1:19 says, “and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might.” This power that he works in us and fills us with is described as “immeasurable.” God has “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” He gives more than we can take, which is completely sufficient to meet our needs and overcome our trials.
“The Lord” is Jeremiah’s only “portion.” There is nothing else that he has or possesses. Numbers 18:20 says, “And the Lord said to Aaron, “You shall have no inheritance in their land, neither shall you have any portion among them. I am your portion and your inheritance among the people of Israel.” He does not have a portion of land or wealth, but the Lord is his only portion.
When we fail in our attempts to be a portion for others, or ourselves God does not fail to meet all our needs Psalm 73:26 says, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” We will glorify His name in heaven, but He will not cease to be the portion that sustains us and keeps us in His presence.
He is “the portion” of our destiny. Psalm 16:5 says, “The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.” He holds our future in His hands, and He knows exactly what we need and will give it to us in order that we may fulfill the destiny he has planned for us. This is not a destiny of accomplishing things but of coming to know Christ.
This “portion” will never decay and will never be destroyed. Our investments may fluctuate being very profitable one day and almost nonexistent the next, but the portion of the Lord will last forever. It is a spiritual portion, which means that we should not expect earthly gifts and that worldly decay cannot affect it or destroy it.
He is our “portion” right now. This verse does not speak of a future portion, but it says, “The Lord is my portion” (emphasis mine). We can look to the future of heaven or to the past when Christ was crucified, but we also can look at the present and see that God is providing and sustaining us even now. He is constantly our portion and providing for every need we have in order for us to accomplish the purpose He has planned for our lives. Until we accomplish the purpose God has destined us to do, we are immortal and invincible. We may not know what this path is, so we should not act as if we are guaranteed tomorrow.
Our struggles and pain may always be pressing against us with no end, but the love of God never ceases and his mercies never come to end. All pain, no matter how bad it is, will one day come to an end, whether on this world or in the next. Even the chronic diseases that afflict our every joint will one day be dispelled when we are reunited with our loving Savior that has conquered sin, death, and pain. The cancer in our bodies and souls will be eradicated. The pain in our arms and legs from these frail bodies will be destroyed. Every sinful passion will be annihilated by the grace of God. Any and all suffering will be gone when we return to our glorious Father that has redeemed us through the suffering and blood of His precious Son, who displayed a love that nothing compares to. For all eternity we will praise this God who has saved us from death itself by the death of our Savior, who rose again victoriously. Psalm 36:5, “Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.” There is no pain that can stand against us because there is nothing that can stand against our God. It might war within us, but God will one day bring forth complete dominance.
These things were purchased on the cross of Christ as he suffered and died for us. The Lord is not our portion and not our hope if we have not come to faith repentance. Instead our lives are filled with never ending suffering, and a fate far worse awaits us at our death.
If we have not repented of our sins and believe in Christ, then we are destined for hell. There is no hope for such people unless they repent of their sins. All that awaits them is an eternity of separation from the blessings of God and the presence of His terrible wrath. The Lord is not our portion and we have no hope either in this world or in the next. I urge you to repent of your sins and have faith in Christ now because there is nothing more important. God’s providence may afford us a few privileges but this is not true life. It is life without hope.
He has saved us from suffering and sin therefore we have a great hope residing within us. We can passionately proclaim, “The LORD is my portion…therefore, I will hope in him.”