Jesus’ Faithfulness towards us gives us strength and protection
On an employee bulletin board someone in management posted a flyer that said, “In case of fire, flee the building with the same reckless abandon that occurs each day at quitting time.” Thankfully in the “fires” of our life, Jesus doesn’t leave us with reckless abandon to handle it on our own. Instead, His great faithfulness gives us strength and He acts as protection to us against the evil one (Satan).
When devastation comes, are you sure of God’s faithfulness?
In the Bible, an Old Testament poet writes of his own struggles of learning about God’s faithfulness. Because of Israel’s sin, God had predicted through the prophet, Isaiah, that the nation would be conquered and the people carried off into exile. What was left behind was a destruction so devastating that it was hard to believe it had been caused by mere humans.
The strong, fortified city walls laid in ruins. Buildings, great and small, had been toppled and lay scattered on the ground. Everywhere, there was death and mangled bodies. The few not dead yet, moaned in pain from their injuries. Others would be dead soon.
From this scene, we find our poet staggering out. As he looks around him, the utter horror and devastation he sees is clearly etched in his face. Everything he has ever known in life is gone. He sinks to his knees as gut wrenching sobs pour forth from the deepest part of his soul. As the small remnant of people still alive and able to move begin emerging from their hiding places, more sobs fill the air.
Can disaster come from the hand of God?
When people seek counseling, therapists often will encourage them to journal their thoughts to help them process what has happened to them. Our poet doesn’t have a therapist, but he begins to process his emotions as he puts his thought in writing in the form of a letter to the other survivors. In it, he expresses his grief, attempts to work out his thoughts about God, and tries to make sense out of what has happened to them all.
In Lamentations 3:1-20 you can hear his utter heartbreak, but you will also learn that he is a believer who told others about God even though they laughed at him. Our poet writes in total honesty, as he tells of his own disillusionment with God and acknowledges that what had happened to them was the work and hand of God. God didn’t just allow it to happen – he had planned it. Orchestrated it. Caused it to happen. It was his judgement on a nation that chose idolatry and worship of false gods while turning their back on the One true God who had called them out and chosen them for His very own.
The People broke their Covenant with God
Yes, God brought the destruction, chaos, and devastation on his own chosen people. When God brought them out of Egypt and established his covenant with them, the covenant had an “if…then” clause. If his people followed after Him and obeyed his commandments, then he would bless them. But if they chose to follow after other God and turn their back on them, then he would bring judgement on them. He even told them exactly what that judgment would be. He then even sent prophet after prophet to remind and warn the people about the consequences of their choice to reject God and worship idols. But they didn’t listen. Often they ridiculed and even killed the prophets God sent, trying “hush” the message so they could continue to live the way the wanted. Finally, God said, “Enough!” and the promised judgment came.
When you feel there is nothing left to pin your hopes on God’s faithfulness is still there
The hurt and devastation for our poet doesn’t end there. He also feels that God is angry at him and against him. As a result, he feels he has nothing left to pin his hopes on for a future different from his new reality. He is depressed and he is in shock. What’s more, our poet is none other than one of God’s own prophets – Jeremiah – and his letter has been persevered as the book of Lamentations in our Bible.
Maybe at some point in your life you have been able to relate to Jeremiah. Maybe your are there now. As a resident of Florida with our share of hurricanes, many have seen destruction such as Jeremiah did. I think of how last year hurricane Dorian sat over the Bahama Islands and the photos that began to appear on the news of the destruction that hurricane left behind. Those photos, to me, represent the utter destruction that Jeremiah saw in his day.
Maybe the utter destruction you have faced wasn’t a physical one, but an emotional one – such as a cancer diagnosis or the accidental death of a child. Maybe for you, it was several things in your life back to back that left you wondering if God was angry with you. Whatever, your utter destruction is, the effects are the same and your emotions and feeling are/were probably very similar to Jeremiah’s.
Focusing on the Truth’s of God Keeps you Going even in the Darkest Moments
Despite it all, Jeremiah kept his focus on one truth that kept him going even in the darkest moment of his life. This truth became his weapon against depression and despair. He held nothing back in his letter of how he felt. He expressed anger, grief, and shock and then he writes Lamentations 3:21-23:
“Yet I call this to mind, and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness!”
These verses can become your weapon against the emotions that threaten to drown you too. Fear, anxiety, depression, hopelessness. None of them can stand up against God’s mercy and faithfulness. It never runs out.
The Thessalonican Church
The Thessalonican church in Paul’s day was birthed in the midst of Christians being persecuted. Paul wrote to them knowing, they of all people, would understand how he was being persecuted. He asked them to pray for him so the the Lord’s message would spread rapidly and be honored. He also asked them to pray that he would be delivered from the wicked and evil men who intended to do him harm. This request was then followed by the following words of encouragement to the Thessalonian church:
“But the Lord is faithful; He will strengthen and guard you from the evil one.”
Remember God’s past Faithfulness
When we go through trials, persecution, or difficulties, it can be easy to forget all the times that God has been there for us in the past. Our mind is so focused on the “right now moment”, the pain and suffering that we feel, the grief and sorrow, the fear and anxiety, the uncertainty in the midst of it all, that it can’t recall God’s faithfulness. It can be helpful to keep a journal of all the times that God has been faithful to us in the past.
Raise your Ebenezer…wait! My what?
If you have ever sung the old Hymn, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, then you are familiar with the following lyrics: “here I raise my Ebenezer.” But what’s an Ebenezer? Samuel recognized the importance of being able to recall God’s faithfulness. In 1 Samuel 7, he takes a stone and set it upright between Mizpah and Shen and then he named it Ebenezer and said, “The Lord has helped us to this point.” From that moment forward, every time he or the people saw the stone, they were reminded of God’s faithfulness to them.
You too can raise an Ebenezer. Try collecting (or purchasing) some stones of various sizes, but able to go into a vase, tray, or box. Think back to times in your life what God’s faithfulness was apparent to you. Write a single word or two on a rock that will help you remember that time. Use a rock for each memory of God’s faithfulness. As you go through life and see God’s faithfulness to you, add a rock and include the date on the other side. Then in those moments of doubt, insecurity, pain, and devastation, let your Ebenezers remind you of God’s faithfulness and know that He will be faithful to you in your current circumstances as well.
Remember God is in Control
Even though God brought judgment on His people, God was still in control of what was happening to them. Throughout the books of Isaiah and Jeremiah, we see God telling these prophets exactly what would happen and He establishes that He is making it all happen. It was God who sent the Babylonians and Assyrians to conquer, destruct, and carry is people into exile. And when the people had been punished, God moves the heart of the king to begin sending the exiled people back to the promised land.
For the Thessalonican church who was being persecuted, God knew everything that was happening and out of that persecution, the Gospel messages spread around the world. God was just as faithful to the early churches as He was to the nation of Israel. He is just as faithful to us today as He was to the people in the Bible. In fact, faithfulness is one of God’s characteristics – its just who He is. It would be impossible for God to not be faithful. Faithful is who He is.
God’s Faithfulness gives strength and protection
Knowing God is in control, even in devastating and chaotic times, can bring us comfort because we know that He also protects us from what the evil one plans. The Bible tells us that Satan is constantly roaming the earth, seeking whom he may devour. We see in the life of Job how Satan brought chaos and destruction – but yet Satan couldn’t do anything to Job without God allowing it. Job couldn’t see it in the moment, but he was totally 100% safe in the hands of God
We may not understand why we are going through something. We may ask God why he would allow what’s going on to happen. Whether we understand the why or not, we can find both strength to endure and rest knowing that even in “this” (whatever your “this” is) God is in control and protect us from utter destruction. Your devastation and chaos may mean your life on this world will end but as God’s child, your soul is eternally safe in the hands of God. He’s wrote your name in the palm of His hand. God carries you in the palm of His hand. He walks with you through the fire so that you will not be consumed. He goes with you through the waters so you will not be overwhelmed.
Remember His Faithfulness
By keeping a journal or Ebenezers of the times God has been faithful to you, it can help you remember His faithfulness to you when your mind is so devastated and torn by grief that it can’t recall it. As you pull out the journal in those moments and read through your entries or hold one rock after another in your hand, you can find peace and comfort and know that God will be faithful again. You will also find reassurance that He’s also right now working in the present situation…even if you can’t see it right now. So praise Him through this storm too, know that He is in control and He’s right now working all things out for your good and for His best plan for you.
Take a moment and think about the lyrics to the 1923 Hymn, Great is Thy Faithfulness (© 1923. Ren. 1951 Hope Publishing Co., Carol Stream, IL 60188. www.hopepublishing.com):
Great is Thy faithfulness
O God my Father
There is no shadow of turning with Thee
Thou changest not
Thy compassions they fail not
As Thou hast been
Thou forever will be
Great is Thy faithfulness.
Great is Thy faithfulness.
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
And all I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness
Lord unto me
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 beside
Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
And all I have needed Thy hands hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness
Lord unto me
Start your own Faithfulness Journal
Take some time to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to recall the previous times where you’ve seen God’s faithfulness to you…where He has given you strength when you didn’t think you had any left…where He’s protected you. Where He has provided for you. Where He has healed you. Start your own Faithfulness Journal and write each remembrance down. Now take a few moments and praise him for his faithfulness, protection, and strength.
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