In the midst of utter destruction, poverty so extreme that it lead to cannibalism, and a spiritual void of the darkest variety, the author of lamentations writes this in chapter 3:
20 …. my soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
22 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
25 The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD.
Sometimes, I feel like I am in a spiritual wasteland. On Mondays we discuss the media manipulation and brainwashing of modern idolatry. Then, I proceed to attend a class looking at mythology and how cultures develop lies to meet their storytelling needs. Tuesdays I learn about Eastern religious all with false senses of nirvana and ultimate reality , and then attend a class that tries to convince me I am crazy because I am religious. Then Weds, I talk about Jewish views of death and my heart breaks as we discuss a culture who loves God, but doesn’t realize that their Messiah has come. On the streets, homeless men approach me to discuss the madness of the world and the coming apocalypse. My eyes well up with tears as I see the effects of our broken society: the economic poverty in the streets and and the spiritual poverty of postmodern relativism in academia. I swear that the shadows I see in the distance are sometimes more than shadows. My gut feeling confirms that something is fogging our city: sin, pride, deception, power, greed, depression… the depravity of man and spiritual bonds that hold him in his endless cycle of despair.
I think I understand why the sight of the city brought Jesus to tears. “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes” (Luke 19:41-42). Our city doesn’t see Jesus or the peace that comes with loving and trusting Him. The peace of knowing that His compassion led Him to give His very life on the cross, the peace of His great faithfulness, the peace of assurance of His redeeming love…. peace is hidden.
Last night we prayed for our campus to have open eyes, open ears, and open hearts to encounter the real, the powerful, the transforming, the supernatural character of God. We prayed for the fog to be lifted, for the veil to be broken, for the scales to fall away. Last night, someone declared that even as we come down from the mountain to find idolatry in the desert, God is still the same and He is still good and He is still worthy to be praised. Lord, we pray that you will break us, mold us, and transform us so that you may be magnified and exalted in this place. We pray that this campus will know your peace.
As I type this I chuckle because the Word says that Jesus did not come to bring peace, but a sword (Matthew 10:34) . Uh… how powerful and applicable a word right now. In order for us to share that peace that surpasses all understanding with the world (Phil 4:7), we must wield the sword that Christ asked us to prepare ourselves with when He was preparing to be betrayed (Luke 22:36). The sword symbolizing protection, division, the raw power that comes with the living God. Peter thought he meant a literal sword, but Christ has empowered us with something so much greater- the sword of the Spirit (eph. 6:17; Hebrews 4:12). To know peace, we often become acquainted with the division of the sword first. The truth of what we know from the Word of God and the guidance of His Spirit will cause division. We must trust that our God is bigger than this division, and show His love to those around us so that they maybe drawn closer to Him. Truth separates and love unites .. so truth and love always go hand in hand… and we must be armed with both.
These times of trials, division, lamentations help us understand why we praise. We’ve seen the alternative to Christ, and know that our only hope is in Him and He is good to those who seek Him- good in His terms, not ours. Good means blessing, but also chastening.. it means prosperity, but also sacrifice… it means victory, but also warfare…. good means whatever it takes for us to be a little more like Christ so that His name can be glorified.
Unfortunately, sometimes it is hard to see the good while in the season of lamentation. In these times, I find myself continually reminding myself of the wisdom of Lamentations as captured by the hymn Great is Thy Faithfulness.
“Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand besides!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy Hand has provided.
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!”
My prayer right now is one day at a time. Lord give us each strength for today and hope for tomorrow. Center our eyes back on your cross, back on your compassion, and your mercy. Help us seek your goodness and receive your mercies everyday. And when the good seems far off, remind us to wait for your salvation. Your hand is always near. ” And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28).
Everything… according to your purpose…