Everyone feels hopeless from time to time. Maybe your workload is overwhelming, and you are discouraged. Maybe you find yourself staring at a house in desperate need of attention and felt hope- less. It could be something more serious. Maybe you are facing a medical situation that makes your knees buckle and your heart faint. While the situation may be different, each one of us knows what it is like to lose hope.
That is why we can often identify with the prophet Jeremiah as he writes the book of Lamentations. One the one hand, it is the bleakest book. On the other hands, chapter three contains a real, spiritual pearl. At this point in Jeremiah’s life, his hometown was invaded and his people deported, which was particularly painful. Beyond that he feels driven into darkness without any light (v. 2). He feels physical pain described as wasting flesh and broken bones (v.4). He feels surrounded by bitterness (v.5) and is trapped in his pain (v. 7). He is a man who says his prayers are unheard (v.8). His pain is like an arrow has been driven into the center of his being (v.13), and he is a laughingstock (v. 14). Perhaps the most pene- trating picture, however, comes in verse 17 when he says, “[M]y soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is.”
Then something amazing happens, which is signaled by a single word in v. 21. While all that is true, he can say “but” something has changed. In the midst of his pain, he reached a turning point. It is hard to understate the shocking nature of v. 21. After a list that is given in the first twenty verses, the last thing you expect to see is the word hope.
The idea of biblical hope has two important facets. The first is confidence. There is a sense in which doubt, fear and insecurity give way to a calm inner confidence. The second facet is expectation. Hope looks to the future. When it does, potential problems are swallowed up by a sense of expectancy. The calm confidence grows when the future is in view, because you are convinced that something good is coming.
Given what we know, it is shocking that Jeremiah would ever use this word to describe himself. After all, he is the man in bitterness and darkness. He is the man who has forgotten how to be happy. His soul is bereft of peace.
How did he reach this place of confident expectation? It evidently begins in the mind. So, he calls something to mind (v.21). Like a healing balm to his hurting soul, a thought comes to mind, and that though eventually shapes his perspective and gives him hope.
What he calls to mind centers on the character of God, and thus he gives us three powerful de- scriptions of God’s character (v.22). First, he exclaims that the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. The term “steadfast love” is hard to translate. Some translate it mercy. Some translate it lovingkindness. And others translate it steadfast love. The particular emphasis of the word is a love that is loyal, faithful, and enduring. It is a love that is set in the context of a covenant relationship, where God pledges himself as faithful to his people. Because he is faithful, this love demonstrates faithfulness, which means it is a love that never leaves.
Having said that, Jeremiah goes on to tell us that God’s mercies never come to an end (v.22). The word mercy or com- passion comes from word meaning bowels. The center of the body was considered the place of warmest emotions. Like the continual flow of a mighty river, his covenant love and his warm compassion never ends.
I find it intriguing that he notes how these twin virtues are new every morning. Perhaps nothing like the rise of the morning sun gives us hope. This is especially true on nights like those when you are up with the sick. During the night, the lone- liness can be overwhelming. Every sound, it seems, carries with it the potential for trouble. No one is around to talk to, and at times it seems that no one cares. Then the sun comes up and with it there is some calm. It is as if the sun brings with it a bit of hope. Seeing this, Jeremiah is reminded that God has brought him through the night season into another day. And with that day he understands that there is a fresh supply of mercy.
All of this leads him to proclaim, “Great is your faithfulness (v.23).” Literally the word means firm or reliable. It points to the fact that God can be trusted. He does not deceive or disappoint; thus, he is worthy of trust.
In other words, what Jeremiah remembers that that God loves him with a love that does not leave. It is the truth he knows about God that transforms his experience of life. Knowing that we are loved with a steadfast, merciful, and reliable love inspires hope, especially when our lives are filled with unexpected hurts.
Dr. Rober Seizer in his work Moral Lessons: Notes in the Art of Surgery writes about a moving picture of love. He had to perform a surgery on a young woman that required the severing of a facial nerve. He writes, “Her young husband is in the room. He stands on the opposite side of the bed, and together they seem to do well in the evening lamplight, isolated from me, private. Who are they, I ask myself, he and this wry-mouth I have made, who gaze at and touch each other so generously, greedily? The young woman speaks. “Will my mouth always be like this?” she asks. “Yes,” I say, “it will.” “It is because the nerve was cut.” She nods and is silent. But the young man smiles. “I like it,” he says. “It is kind of cute.” . . . Unmindful he bends to kiss her crooked mouth, and I, so close, can see how he twists his own lips to accommodate to hers, to show her that their kiss still works (quoted in Kent Hughes, Disciplines of a Godly Man, 41).”
What would happen in your heart if you were loved like that? If you knew that kind of love that will stoop and stay, would that inspire hope? You that is exactly what the Bible tells us that God did. We are told that Christ stooped to identify with us by taking the form of a man (Phil. 2) and even died for us. In addition, we are told that he loves those who are united to him by faith with an unshakable love. Romans 8:38-39 tells us, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to sepa- rate us from the love of Christ. He secures you.”
I hope you have a wonderful Easter, and thank you for joining us on this journey.