God, Not Feelings…
The last few days have been rough. I can’t point to one thing in particular as the culprit; it’s really more like a convergence of issues conspiring against my joy and my peace. It is times like these that I have learned and am still learning to NOT trust my “feelings.” At any given time, my feelings are being affected by all sorts of factors like a lack of sleep, concern for my wife and children, the stress of my job, school requirements, life’s demands, etc. The alternative to relying on such fickle emotions (that seem to fluctuate by the minute at times) is the Truth – i.e. God’s Word. God has spoken to us so that we will know where to put our hope and confidence, and here’s a hint – it’s not in ourselves.
I read Lamentations chapter 3 this morning. (For some reason, I tend to end up in Lamentations when I feel like pitying myself.) In this chapter the prophet Jeremiah is bemoaning the suffering of the nation, but it is clear that he is experiencing the associated pain and bewilderment within himself as well. Listen to his words:
1 I am the man who has seen affliction under the rod of his wrath; 2 he has driven and brought me into darkness without any light; 3 surely against me he turns his hand again and again the whole day long. 4 He has made my flesh and my skin waste away; he has broken my bones; 5 he has besieged and enveloped me with bitterness and tribulation; 6 he has made me dwell in darkness like the dead of long ago.
Jeremiah is in some serious misery. But watch what happens as he is going through his list of troubles, (as we tend to do). He comes to the end of his pity party and says in verse 18, “so I say, ‘My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the LORD.’” He thought he was going to get away with that little zinger at God, but it had the exact opposite effect. It was as if the very mention of God’s name turned his thoughts upward. After inviting (telling) God to join in his pity party, reality hits him in the face.
God hasn’t left him to his emotions. God hasn’t left him to his suffering.
21 But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: 22 The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” 25 The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. 26 It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.
Jeremiah’s plight really was severe. He had suffered greatly and probably was in the middle of a devastating situation the likes of which would make anything I am facing look like a walk in the park. But in the midst of that great suffering, God called forth his mind from the pits of self-despair and turned his heart into one that burst forth with the words, “Great is your faithfulness!”
That’s a turn-around. That’s what we all need at times.
When all around my soul looks like it is giving way, I need to remember Truth. Appearances and feelings are unreliable. God isn’t.
Great is Thy Faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!
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.
Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.
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!
-Thomas Chisholm (1866-1960)