Lamentations 3:28-33 - Let him sit alone in silence when it is laid on him; let him put his mouth in the dust—there may yet be hope; let him give his cheek to the one who strikes, and let him be filled with insults. For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though He cause grief, He will have compassion according to the abundance of His steadfast love; for He does not afflict from His heart or grieve the children of men.
Jeremiah was learning, as had Isaiah, that God says, "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8-9). He was learning from personal experience what the psalmist already knew—that God's ways are past finding out. Clever though we may be, trying to be insightful after the fact, busy as we are at being Monday-morning quarterbacks of the events of our lives, there is always mystery that transcends our understanding of what goes on with us. This is not "cop-out" thinking. Rather, it's to recognize that man's finiteness can never apprehend the Infinite; that what God has in mind—the master patterns He is weaving—is always greater than we can comprehend.
We are "suffering saints." We may say that injustice seems to be walking the face of the earth. The first thing which begins to happen for suffering saints is that, like Jeremiah, we need to recognize God's purpose amid collapse. There is no human being, no government, no synod, or undertaking that God will let stand forever, if it gets in the way of trusting Him. When the Old Testament speaks of the shaking of the foundations, it's so the First Commandment might again become the ruling commandment, loving God first and foremost.
Jeremiah didn't go around spewing a positive-thinking kind of Gospel of "be hopeful no matter how bad things look." For him it was always hope in God, realizing that God is the provider of all things, that He is the King of kings, and the Lord of lords. When we begin to trust in something other than God, He will surely permit a collapse so that He is revealed as the one King who reigns forever. Recognize that God has purpose, even amid collapse. Hope in Him!
We're also reminded that another reason we hope in God is that the suffering you and I consider the worst of all, that suffering which ends in death and which deprives us of those who mean the most to us, that kind of experience through which we must someday enter the narrow portal of eternity, takes place under the same God who, though He lets human empires fall, nevertheless "tips His hand" in His Son Jesus Christ. In the stories of the raising of Jairus' daughter, of Lazarus, and of His own resurrection, He reminds us that He alone has victory over the foe of death. And that victory He gives also to His "suffering saints."
THE PRAYER: Heavenly Father, though life may look grim at times, in Your Son—our ultimate Victor—we have confidence in this life and in the life to come. In Jesus' Name we pray. Amen.
From The Lutheran Layman, January 1978 issue, "He Will Have Compassion" by Rev. Edward Wessling
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