Have you ever noticed that sometimes the Lord prepares us in advance for the testing that is yet to come?
There is a truth that I have been pondering for years–decades even–that has recently become more meaningful to me than ever before. It’s not that this truth didn’t mean something to me before. It’s just that during the seasons of life when the Lord was writing the truth on my heart, I didn’t fully grasp my great need. And consequently I didn’t fully appreciate the magnitude of the truth.
Two years ago, I was pondering this truth. Again. I had considered it before–many times–but this time the Lord brought it to my mind because of the testimony of a friend who had experienced the faithfulness of God through a period of suffering. I wrote about it in March of 2011, nearly 2 years before my cancer diagnosis.
But this I call to mind….
It’s just a segue…the lead-in to one of the most oft-quoted verses in all of scripture.
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
It’s no wonder that Lamentations 3:22-23 is such a “popular” verse. It provides such rich encouragement to the child of God. It gives assurance. It reminds us of God’s compassion and His faithfulness. It comforts. It fills us with hope. It’s the stuff of great hymns.
But a few years ago, I was struck by verse 21. And the little word “but.”
“But this I call to mind and therefore I have hope.”
That little word and the realization that it signaled the importance of what preceded it, caused me to take a deeper look at the first part of Lamentations 3. Though by this time, I had heard (and sung) the words of the latter part of Lamentations 3 more times than I could count, it dawned on me that I knew little of what led up to perhaps the greatest words of hope the scriptures had to offer. I discovered the deep groanings of a desperate man–God’s man–the prophet Jeremiah. I was surprised to find a bitter, hopeless man who was overwhelmed by pain and despair.
“I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of the LORD’s wrath…”
“He has made my skin and my flesh grow old and has broken my bones.”
“Even when I call out or cry for help, he shuts out my prayer.”
“He pierced my heart with arrows from his quiver.”
“So I say, “My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the LORD.”
“I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.”
Then, in the midst of his suffering, in the middle of his pain, Jeremiah breathes that word.
Despite the suffering, and in spite of the pain, Jeremiah found the strength to remember. He chose to call something else to mind–something that he knew would bring him hope.
“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
It’s so easy to let our sufferings overwhelm us. It can be so easy to believe that there is no way out of the despair and the hopelessness. But God has filled us with the knowledge of His faithfulness and he has given us the ability to choose to remember. Trusting in his faithfulness is an act of the will. It’s something we must choose to do.
And like Jeremiah, when we choose to remember his faithfulness in the midst of our struggle, we are filled with hope.
What amazes me now is that I know He was preparing me for a trial that was still two years in the future. When I wrote those words, I had NO idea what lay ahead. I had no idea that he was writing on my heart a truth that–though important that day–would become even more important two years later. He wanted me to know the truth, because He knew a day was coming when I would need to experience the truth. He knew that it was only later–when the weight of my own weakness was bearing down on me–that the comfort of His faithfulness would be most precious.
Today I am thankful that He loved me enough to write His truth on my heart. I’m thankful that two years ago my friend, Sandra, sang a testimony of God’s faithfulness. I am thankful that through the years he taught me to call to mind his faithfulness. For because of it, I have hope.
This is my anthem, this is my song
The theme of the stories I’ve heard for so long
God has been faithful, He will be again
His loving compassion, it knows no end
All I have need of, His hand will provide
He’s always been faithful to me.