Thankful for New Mercies
Let’s give thanks. You may think of a couple things quickly and then think over the last 18 months and say, blaaah! What is there to give thanks for? Shut downs. Inflation. To mask or not to mask. Vaccine. Sickness. Death. Anger. Disagreements. Division. We know that 2021 has not been a year of feel-good headlines.
I’m worried about making ends meet. We have less money than ever. I’m praying and praying for changes and it just keeps getting harder! You want me to give thanks and I don’t want to hear it.
Give thanks! It is good for the soul. And you have much to give thanks for.
But be honest about your struggles. I want to read a passage that has greatly encouraged me to see God’s grace over the last couple seasons. It is a passage out of the book of Lamentation 3. Verses 21 are deeply encouraging, and you might see them on displays or picture frames, get them on a :Chicken Soup for the Soul” email update, but I want to go back to the beginning of the chapter and get the whole context. I think seeing the context of what is going on will greatly help us give thanks.
This passage comes as a reflection on one of the darkest times of God’s people. God’s people have turned away from God. And God has turned away from them. They are under affliction and suffering. Their nation has been conquered. The book of Lamentations is a lament for the suffering that is seen in the city of Jerusalem.
I am the man who has seen affliction under the rod of his (God’s) wrath; 2 he has driven and brought me into darkness without any light; 3 surely against me he turns his hand again and again the whole day long. 4 He has made my flesh and my skin waste away; he has broken my bones; 5 he has besieged and enveloped me with bitterness and tribulation; 6 he has made me dwell in darkness like the dead of long ago. 7 He has walled me about so that I cannot escape; he has made my chains heavy; 8 though I call and cry for help, he shuts out my prayer; 9 he has blocked my ways with blocks of stones; he has made my paths crooked. 10 He is a bear lying in wait for me, a lion in hiding; 11 he turned aside my steps and tore me to pieces; he has made me desolate; 12 he bent his bow and set me as a target for his arrow. 13 He drove into my kidneys the arrows of his quiver; 14 I have become the laughingstock of all peoples, the object of their taunts all day long. 15 He has filled me with bitterness; he has sated me with wormwood. 16 He has made my teeth grind on gravel, and made me cower in ashes; 17 my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; 18 so I say, “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the LORD.” 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.” 25 The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. 26 It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. 27 It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. 28 Let him sit alone in silence when it is laid on him; 29 let him put his mouth in the dust– there may yet be hope; 30 let him give his cheek to the one who strikes, and let him be filled with insults. 31 For the Lord will not cast off forever, 32 but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; 33 for he does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men. 34 To crush underfoot all the prisoners of the earth, 35 to deny a man justice in the presence of the Most High, 36 to subvert a man in his lawsuit, the Lord does not approve. 37 Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? 38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come? 39 Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins? 40 Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the LORD!
- Give Thanks for the Bad Times.
This passage begins with a bone chilling situation of loss and abandonment. It is difficult for us to relate to. It may feel hyperbolic. Worst day ever! But the book of Lamentations was written in one of the worst situations.
Happiness and peace are gone. The Lord set him as a target. Pierced his kidneys. Teeth grinding on gravel. Most colorful expression of pain, loss, suffering.
This passage reminds us that we live in a fallen world. People rebelled against God and suffering and sin entered. People live under judgment. We live under judgement. You feel it in the pain and loss in the world.
This pain and suffering is a result of turning from God. God’s people rebelled against him. He told them to trust him, love him, follow him. They didn’t trust, didnt love and didn’t follow. They did their own thing. God told them if they did that he would abandon them, turn them over to their enemies. And he did that. In 586 Israel was conquered by the Babylonians. A brutal people. The Israelites lost their nation, their temple, their people were deported. They lost their power. Their glory.
In a fallen world where there is death, sickness, mourning crying, and pain. There are consequences to rejecting God. You may feel both these in life. The pain of hardship. The pain of going your own way.
If you have felt pain, know it is not as though something strange or unusual is happening to you. Not if – but what loss have you experienced?
Jeremiah felt it, too. Most likely the author of this book. He is a prophet and known as the weeping prophet. Jeremiah was called to preach to a rebellious people. There was no one who repented in his whole ministry. No one did anything wrong. Is this the spirit of the church today? He preached for them to repent. They threw him into a well. He brought the word of God to the king. The king listened, took the scroll and threw it in the fire. Stone cold dead to the Lord (Jer 36). He wept and desponded for not seeing more faithfulness.
It is hard to give thanks in difficulty. Often you have to come through it a bit before you are able to do that. But often what leads to overcoming is being honest about your struggles. There is an honesty by God’s people. People who knew God brought their hardship and struggles to him. They felt the pain and sought him for help and answers. Complaint is what often comes before a praise.
Are you mad at God. Disappointed. Confused. Have you just become unfeeling because of the barrage of disappointment? He is a big God. He can handle it. I hope you can handle what he might say to you. But tell it to him.
Say what you feel! I’ve seen people start weeping because they finally said what they wanted and realized how wrong it was. I’ve seen people blurt out their offenses and, in the process realize it is unjustified. God can do as he pleases. I have seen people utter their confusion honestly and clearly and then slowly but surely begin to get answers.
God is working. He was working in this situation. That becomes more clear later. He is working in your situation.
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, (2Co 4:17 ESV)
CS Lewis: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
[15 He has filled me with bitterness; he has sated me with wormwood.
Wormwood is a very bitter plant. It is also known for its healing purposes. That is how we view those bad times. Is it bitter? Yes indeed. Don’t sugar coat it. But it can be a healing balm in which God does something in us. 1 Anti-inflammatory 2 Anti-pyretic (fever reducer) 3 Chemotherapeutic (kills cancer cells) 4 Anti-microbial & Anti-fungal (kills bacteria, viruses, and funguses) 5 Anti-parasitic (kills parasites)
Remember that for God’s people suffering is not the final note. It doesn’t end with that. There is a change. There is a change because of the promises of God.
[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.
As believers we are anchored in the promises of God. He steadfast love is his covenant, promise-making love. He stands by it. The fact he disciplines his people is an example of his love. And his love is what brings new mercies. Jeremiah could say this in the heart of the darkness. You can say it, too.
- Give thanks for New Mercies.
Jeremiah encountered the Lord’s mercy in the midst of the worst circumstances imaginable. He was comforted by God’s steadfast love. By his promises. You can be comforted, too.
The Lord’s mercies never come to an end. You will not exhaust them. You will not exhaust your need for them. They come wave after wave. There is an end to the college football season. There is an end to Fall. There is an end to Avengers. There is an end to school. There is an end to your career. There is an end to the sale. There is an end to a presidency. There is an end to a book. There is no end to the Lord’s mercies.
*Just as surely as tomorrow is going to have adversity, there will be mercy.*
God told us life would be hard. Did you doubt it. You’re acting like it wasn’t supposed to be this way. It’s hard. But he has promised to meet us in it. After the curse God said through painful toil will you eat. It’s painful. But you will eat.
*His steadfast love never ends.
HIs grace comes to us in our suffering. In our hardship.
God, thank you for bringing people at the right time. Laura was talking last week it’s a one-year anniversary of being at Radiant. I thought how could we have gotten through without them. I’m thankful for Jamison, when we were all in here together because I was over filming in a room by myself and it’s the middle of service and he is hanging on my leg. I’m grateful we had a Kyle as a video productions major to help go online. I’m grateful Greg was with us and could share his story. I’m grateful for JK being here every morning to set up. I’m grateful for Elizabeth Trost saying she has six kids, two jobs, but she will get the Children’s Ministry going again. I’m grateful for people saying let’s make a way to reach those who are not coming out. I’m grateful for those who said let’s make sure these doors are open every Sunday so people can know there is a place of hope and not fear. I’m grateful for the faith of people who when I shared a need for more help to get the church moving forward, looked at the budget and said it’s time to step out in faith. We have a good plan – let’s step forward in faith that God has led us to this place. I’m grateful for Dan and Rachael being here. His mercy has met us time and time again. Those days I didn’t want to get out of bed because it seemed like the world was mad and I couldn’t do anything.
*The steadfast love of the lord never ends. His mercies are new every day.
Today’s trials are tomorrow’s praises. You will find help. You will overcome.
[25 The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. 26 It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.
Giving thanks for God’s past provision fills you with faith for his future provision. It keeps your heart from getting hard.
Can I encourage you to give thanks! Ungratefulness is a bitter pill. It poisons you. Thankfulness is exercising faith in hard situations. It says, I m waiting on God to do something, but I’m going to rejoice for what I have now.
Paul and Silas were in prison. They were singing songs. No doubt wanting to be delivered from prison. Jeremiah abandoned, ridiculed, mocked, oppressed, his people ruined for not listening to his message from the Lord. But this he calls to mind. The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.
In the worst of times, we know we are forgiven. We know Jesus welcomes his followers into his kingdom. We know death will not overcome us.
He is our portion. He is all we need.
- Give thanks for Restoration
[40 Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the LORD!
God desires that we live in humble commitment to him. When we stray from that the way we are healed is through humble recommitment. You are going to fail in life. Show me a man who has never failed and I will show you a person who has never attempted anything.
[31 For the Lord will not cast off forever, 32 but, though he causes grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
The Lord disciplines like a father. Actually, it’s better said that our earthly fathers attempt to discipline us as our heavenly father. As a father there are times you have to correct your children, particularly when they are young. It is not your favorite thing to do, but you know your child needs to see that they cannot keep sticking their hand in the light socket and not experience adversity. They can’t keep lying and not experience a negative consequence. You discipline your kids because of the hope to change their behavior and to reach their hearts. God does this with his children.
Discipline is not meant to be punitive but restorative. There is a big difference in this.
We don’t always handle the bad times well.
We don’t always handle the good times well.
We wander from God. We wander from our purpose.
The cry of man. The Lord is my portion. The only thing that we can truly take with us is our relationship to God. Everything else in life we are going to leave behind. You are going to leave all your treasures behind. The things you have and the things you live in fear of losing will one day either be divided up and taken by your loved ones or left in a run down shed and thrown away. Been doing this recently. It’s sad. Your body is going to be left behind.
And much of life is spent having the Lord pry our fingers off of those things. We can either fight against it and become embittered. Or we acknowledge him and find freedom and healing.
Jeremiah felt that. And he praised God for the chastisements brought into his life.
You know recently we have been able to do things that we could not do for years. We were able to really think about our small group ministry and what would meet people’s needs and bring them into the word of God. We found an approach that I am really excited about. I would not have done that when I first got here. I have gotten to know the community in ways I didn’t know before, seen the good, the bad, the ugly of the community at large and the Christian community specifically. I now praise God for those really hard years before Covid hit. I suppose in a couple years I will see what God did in Covid and be grateful for it, but I’m not there yet. I’m still a little mad about it.
God is working in your adversity. If it brings you closer to God then let’s praise him for it.
Jeremiah is derided. Words here are used for the derision the Messiah will experience. He is becoming like the savior through his hardship. There is also a change in the pronouns I, me and we, us, ours. His suffering is symbolic of what others will experience.
- We serve a crucified Savior. Don’t be surprised when life is hard.
- We serve a crucified savior. Don’t be surprised if God calls you to lay down privileges.
- We serve a crucified Savior. God redeems suffering.
- We serve a crucified Savior. Don’t be surprised when God’s love keeps interrupting your life.
- We serve a crucified Savior. Don’t be surprised if God takes you deeper in understanding what that means through all the ups and downs of life.
You have a Savior and that is all the reason in the world to give thanks!
You have a Savior. It doesn’t matter what you have done in the past. You can repent, turn to him, trust in him, and experience new mercies as surely as the Sun will rise tomorrow.
Your future is not determined by your past, but by your trust in the one who determines the future.
Jeremiah brought an incredible promise to these down and out rebels – that if they truly turned to the Lord their future would be better than they ever had it. Greater heights than ever. That promise is for you, too. You can give thanks that you, a sinner, a rebel, can experience new mercies every day.
[v41 Lift up our hearts and hands to heaven.
Lifting your hands is a way to express wonder. It’s a way to express submission. It is a way to express what is going on inside. Can you lift up your hands to God? Have you lifted up your heart to Him?
Jesus has atoned for all your mistakes and wrongs. He promises you life as you trust and follow him. You have hope in your darkest moments. You have hope in your best moments. You have a way to stop and say “I’m sorry will you forgive me”, and you can experience new life.