We’ve resolved to find the courage to ask ourselves the hard questions, and answer them honestly, understanding it is a difficult but important part of the healing process. We’ve already wrestled with whether or not we want to heal. We’ve looked our Healer in the eyes and evaluated our instinct to answer, “I can’t,” finding in that process the tools we needed to finally pick up our mats and walk! We’re moving forward now, refusing to go back to old ways and answering another hard question today: Do I trust God’s good plan for me? Let’s dig deep and evaluate ourselves honestly, because this is a big one!
When All I Can See is the Pit
Let’s be honest, we don’t often find ourselves on the mountain tops of life questioning God’s goodness, or His plan for us. It is in the depths that these questions surface. It is beneath the crushing weight of life’s sorrows that God’s good plan begins to feel like a far off fairy-tale written for someone else.
For me these questions came in the wake of discovering My Love’s addiction had escalated to an actual physical affair. It wrecked me. I had been believing God to protect us from that outcome (though He had never made that promise) and when He didn’t, I felt completely abandoned and betrayed. I found myself questioning, not whether I had been believing God for something He never promised, but whether this God I’d been trusting was even good.
I’m hardly the first person in history to have felt this way! Praise God, through the pages of Scripture I found example after example of men and women who questioned God as I did, and came out confident of His righteousness, fully trusting God’s good plan for them. Let’s look at one of those men: the prophet Jeremiah.
Jeremiah came right out and questioned God’s goodness on several occasions, at times even accusing Him of deception! (Jeremiah 20:7) See, like me, Jeremiah had believed God for things He didn’t promise. When he poured out his life in service, boldly speaking God’s prophetic messages to people who had rejected the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies, he expected to be protected from their inevitable anger. Instead, he was abused and tormented throughout his life and spent a significant amount of time in a literal pit!
That’s right, because of his commitment to speak truth and follow God he was thrown into a well where he was left to sink into the mud and starve to death. (Though he was rescued before that fate could be realized) It is from that place that we get the main passage we’re going to look at today: Lamentations 3.
Lamentations 3:1-20 – I am the one who has seen the afflictions that come from the rod of the Lord’s anger. He has led me into darkness, shutting out all light. He has turned His hand against me again and again, all day long.
He has made my skin and flesh grow old. He has broken my bones. He has besieged and surrounded me with anguish and distress. He has buried me in a dark place, like those long dead.
He has walled me in, and I cannot escape. He has bound me in heavy chains. And though I cry and shout, He has shut out my prayers. He has blocked my way with a high stone wall; he has made my road crooked.
He has hidden like a bear or a lion, waiting to attack me. He has dragged me off the path and torn me in pieces, leaving me helpless and devastated. He has drawn His bow and made me the target for His arrows.
He shot His arrows deep into my heart. My own people laugh at me. All day long they sing their mocking songs. He has filled me with bitterness and given me a bitter cup of sorrow to drink.
He has made me chew on gravel. He has rolled me in the dust. Peace has been stripped away, and I have forgotten what prosperity is. I cry out, “My splendor is gone! Everything I had hoped for from the Lord is lost!”
The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss.
Evaluating My View of God
It is very difficult to obey a God we don’t trust!
As humans, one of our most inherent sins is pride. We tend to trust our own evaluation of a situation over the Word of God. When God tells us He is good, we look to countless terrible situations and wonder how it can be true. How can He be righteous when what He has done so often seems damning?
From places like this, we recognize what He has asked of us, but it seems harsh, or scary, or certain to bring about an undesired result and so we hesitate in our obedience. We don’t truly believe He is good, so how could we have faith that His plan for us is going to be good?
It is in moments like these we have to decide what we’re going to believe. Will we trust our finite perspective and understanding, or the only eternal, all knowing God? Will we have the courage to step out in faith, or remain bound in chains of unbelief?
Here is how the prophet Jeremiah responded:
Lamentations 3:20-33 – I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss.YET I WILL DARE TO HOPE WHEN I REMEMBER THIS:
The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in Him!”
The Lord is good to those who depend on Him, to those who search for Him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord. And it is good for people to submit at an early age to the yoke of His discipline:
Let them sit alone in silence beneath the Lord’s demands. Let them lie face down in the dust, for there may be hope at last. Let them turn the other cheek to those who strike them and accept the insults of their enemies.
For no one is abandoned by the Lord forever. Though He brings grief, He also shows compassion because of the greatness of His unfailing love. For He does not enjoy hurting people or causing them sorrow.
Facing My Fears
The Bible doesn’t tell us exactly how long Jeremiah was in that pit, but we know it was a long time. We know it was long enough to give him every reason to believe that was where he would die.
In other words, it was long enough for him to have to honestly evaluate if God’s good plan for him could include death by starvation and deterioration from sinking into the muck of the earth.
We have to ask ourselves those same kinds of questions. We have to face off with our fears! Because the fact is, God’s good plan for us just might include a lifetime spent with an unloving spouse, and it might include a lifetime spent alone. Scripture has not promised any of us the repentance of those we love.
Lamentations 3:55-60 – But I called on Your name, Lord, from deep within the pit. You heard me when I cried, “Listen to my pleading! Hear my cry for help!” Yes, You came when I called; You told me, “Do not fear.”
Lord, You have come to my defense; You have redeemed my life. You have seen the wrong they have done to me, Lord. Be my judge, and prove me right. You have seen the vengeful plots my enemies have laid against me.
Jeremiah was able to believe, no matter the outcome, that victory in this life could be his. That God could redeem his life even down there in the dark and lonely, miry depths.
Do I have that kind of faith? Can I see God’s work in my life even in the darkness? Do I thank Him for it, and use it to fuel my faith that He will do it again?
Do I have the courage to continue to obey what God has asked of me, as Jeremiah did, even when my faith feels flimsy?
Remembering God’s Promises
I can’t help but wonder, how did Jeremiah get to that place? And so quickly?
How did he go from a place in which he was accusing God of not listening to him and turning His back on him, to a place in which he could say, neck deep in mud, “The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies begin afresh each morning?”
I believe the answer is this: He remembered what God had actually promised.
I believe the text (All of Jeremiah and Lamentations) indicates that what Jeremiah was able to do with all his time down there in that cistern is remember and re-evaluate the words of the Lord. I believe he had the courage to answer the hard question: Do I trust God’s good plan for me? To face off with the fact that he may have misinterpreted God’s promise, and that there might be something good for him even down there in the darkness.
I believe Jeremiah remembered the promise we all love to quote, and hang on our walls. The promise God had given to HIM:
Jeremiah remembered God’s promise to be found when he would simply look for Him wholeheartedly, and he was able to turn on a dime from unbelief to faith. Knowing with confidence that God’s plans for him, even down there in the well, were to prosper him and not to harm him. To give him a future and a hope.
Choosing to Trust God’s Good Plan
I am so thankful for the grace of God which worked in my heart as well, bringing me to that same place of total faith in God’s good plan for me. When I found myself, only a few months later facing the reality that there was not just one, but many infidelities in our marriage, I was able to stand unmoved in that place of confidence, believing God was doing something for my good – though I couldn’t see it at all.
Like Jeremiah I was able to move forward in obedience, knowing the result of that obedience might bring even more pain and misery, but fully convinced that my future and my hope was secure in God’s good plan. Won’t you choose to trust Him too? My friend, He is so faithful!
*How about you? Do you struggle to trust God’s good plan for you?