This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope:
It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed,
because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.
The Lord is my portion, saith my soul;
therefore will I hope in him.
Lamentations 3:21-24 KJV
“How come she gets that and I don’t?!” “Why can’t I do that but she can?!” “Why do I have to clean up the mess when I didn’t make it?!” “That’s not fair!”
Sound familiar? If you’re a parent, you’ve probably heard such outcries more than you care to admit. I know I’ve heard them numerous times since having children. “That’s not fair! She has more chips!” “That’s not fair! His cake has more frosting!” Or the one that always leaves me shaking my head: “That’s not fair! He’s prayed for dinner more than I have!”
Whether it’s something as seemingly small as the portion size of a snack or something ironic as the number of opportunities to pray for a meal, we as humans often decide early on in life that life should be fair. From childhood and on throughout adulthood we continually try to demand fairness in everything. Yet as I often remind my children (and ultimately myself): life is not fair. Wrongdoers don’t always get punished, the good guys don’t always win, and sometimes the good guys are the ones who suffer most.
In today’s world especially chaos, destruction, and heartache abound. Every day we read or hear about people being killed, families being torn apart, and communities pitted against each other. Watch a few minutes of the evening news or read the headlines of your favorite news website, and you’ll quickly realize we live in a broken world–an unfair world. Bad things happen to good people. Those we love suffer at the hands of someone else. Righteousness seems lost, and we often find ourselves enduring grief and trouble. The only “fair” aspect of life is that no one is immune from tragedy.
And it is as we read Lamentations, we see that Jeremiah’s generation also faced adversity. Life was one big tragedy. The altars were destroyed. Their enemies had overtaken them. They were separated, starved, beaten, battered, and broken. God’s chosen people had gone from being on top to being trampled underfoot. Nothing was going their way; in fact, everything and everyone seemed against them. Jeremiah actually laments at one point, “my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is… (Lamentations 3:17)
Have you ever been there? Your peace is gone and you’ve forgotten what happiness is. Your life is in turmoil. Your once seemingly perfect life now lies shattered in pieces at your feet. And it just doesn’t seem fair. Questions like “Why would God let this happen?” and “What did I do to deserve this?” fill your thoughts and escape your throat.
Well, Jeremiah was there, too. His entire nation was there.
Yet Jeremiah found hope. In fact, it was actually within despair and depravity he penned those famous verses of compassion and mercy found in Lamentations 3.
So how could Jeremiah find hope within such desolation? such despair? such destruction? Why did he not just give up amidst such adversity? Why did he keep marching on? keep moving forward? keep trusting God?
Because it is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed.
Yes, even while lamenting the horrors of life–horrors brought about by his own people’s sinfulness–Jeremiah knew his hope was found in God alone. When life appeared unfair, Jeremiah knew God still was. Jeremiah knew that even though God was more than able to do anything, if He chose not to save, He was still God and He was still good. Jeremiah knew what Mercy Me sings in their song “Even If”: But even if You don’t, My hope is You alone.
Now don’t misunderstand me, I am in no way implying that all bad things are a result of our sins. There are many reasons tragedies strike, some of which we’ll never know this side of Heaven. As I said, life isn’t fair. None of us is perfect, but as my pastor reminded us through the story of Hagar, sometimes innocent people do get caught in the middle of the sins of others. What I am saying, however, is that although many of us often quote Jeremiah’s hope-filled proclamation as we struggle through the storms, I sometimes wonder if we fully grasp the depths of Jeremiah’s words. Jeremiah wasn’t hoping in God because of self-righteous pride; he didn’t think he deserved God’s redemption. He also wasn’t just hoping that God would right the wrongs done to him. Jeremiah wasn’t just crying out to God, “That’s not fair!” No, Jeremiah was hoping in God out of deep humility. Jeremiah was expressing a faith that even if God did not to move the mountains He was more than able to move, God was still God, God was still compassionate, and God was still worthy of praise. Jeremiah knew he not only didn’t deserve God’s help but more accurately deserved God’s wrath. Jeremiah recognized his own depravity and the depravity of all mankind. And it is within this depravity Jeremiah is grateful God’s compassions fail not. It is as he is in the throes of sin’s consequences that he trusts in God’s abounding mercies. As a “man who has seen affliction under the rod of his wrath” (Lamentations 3:1), Jeremiah had a deep reverence for God Almighty.
Jeremiah knew in a seemingly unfair world God was his hope because His compassion fails not and His mercies are new every morning.
And so should we. When people rise up against us, leaving us confused and broken, we must hope. When we mess up, we must hope. No matter how grim the outlook, we must hope. We must daily proclaim the words of David: Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God (Psalm 43:5).
Yet do we? Do we really see God as our salvation and our hope? I don’t think we always do because I don’t think we always see ourselves as we truly are: mortal, sinful, yet saved by God’s grace. We don’t always recognize the truth of Paul’s reminder in Romans:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.” (Romans 3:9-12)
As we praise God for His compassion and mercy and grace, we must remember God is the Sovereign One. God is God; we are not. Redemption is a gift–a blessing we should never take for granted–for it is the ultimate example of God’s compassion and mercy. Doing the right things, saying the right words, and being able to check off those Christ-like attributes will never make us worthy of salvation, worthy of God’s blessings, or worthy of a life of ease.
We deserve nothing.
I repeat: when life seems unfair, we must remember we deserve nothing.
Now don’t get me wrong, I do not believe we should focus on our depravity and go through life hunched over in self loathing and self pity. What I do believe is we must remember God alone is our hope because God alone is the only one who can save us. We deserve nothing, but it is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed.
Yet day after day I believe we tend to fall victim to a sinful way of thinking: the sin of entitlement. We go about our daily lives feeling like we deserve health, deserve money, deserve peace, deserve the victory, deserve an explanation, deserve salvation. We’ve gone from being grateful to being proud, and I dare say, demanding. We expect God to move. We expect God to answer. We expect God to be at our beck and call. And yes, God says we should not be ashamed of the power of salvation–and yes, God calls us to share the gift of salvation with the world–and yes, God calls us to seek and to ask–but we must also remember we do not deserve nor can we ever earn anything. We don’t deserve salvation; no one does. God didn’t save us because we earned it; He saved us because we needed it. God saved us because His compassions fail not. We needed Him even before we knew Him, and we owe all to Him.
And this is what I believe is at the center of Jeremiah’s message. After proclaiming his hope rests in God, Jeremiah says the following:
Who has spoken and it came to pass,
unless the Lord has commanded it?
Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
that good and bad come?
Why should a living man complain,
a man, about the punishment of his sins? (Lamentations 3:37-39)
Jeremiah knew an important truth: God owes us nothing. Nothing. He doesn’t owe us an explanation. He doesn’t owe us salvation. He doesn’t owe us a life of ease. The Creator owes nothing to the ones He created.
…it is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed.
That’s awesome. What a privilege to be alive and to be free from the law of sin and death! What a joy to know that when my time on this earth comes to an end, eternity in heaven awaits me!
Why does it await me?
Because His compassion fails not and His mercies are new every morning.
I encourage you, my friend, not to forget this: God is the reason we are not consumed. God is the reason we are able to get up each morning. God is the only one with the ultimate wisdom and understanding of all things. Who are we as mere man to complain about the life God has given to us? Who are we to question God’s sovereignty? We must place our hope and our trust in the only One who knows all, for the only One who knows all chose to save us.
Because His compassion fails not and His mercies are new every morning.
So why do bad things happen to good people? Why do we suffer so much in this life? Why do we continually struggle? Why is life not fair? I don’t know the exact answer to these questions and ones like them. Sometimes it’s our sin, sometimes it’s the sins of others, sometimes it’s a consequence of living in a broken world, and sometimes, well, we just don’t know the why’s and how’s of the heartaches of this life. But here is what I do know: regardless the current circumstances of our lives, it is solely because of God’s compassion and God’s mercy that we are not consumed. As Paul says in the New Testament: ”…we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. (2 Corinthians 4:7-10)
The power is God’s, my friend. Salvation is God’s. And it is God’s mercy which stops Him from utterly destroying us. It is His compassion that saves us, redeems us, and calls us out of the darkness and into the light. Do we deserve it? No! But we can receive it because His compassion fails not and His mercies are new every morning.
So today, whether you are walking the path of ease and comfort, or whether you are walking, crawling, and struggling through the roads of adversity, you can know that the Lord is compassionate, the Lord is faithful, and the Lord’s love never fails. Hope in Him. You may not understand His ways. You may not like the path He’s chosen for you. But you can always hope in Him. You can always rest in knowing eternity awaits and redemption is at hand, because it is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed.