“I am the one who has seen affliction because of the rod of His wrath. He has driven me and made me walk in darkness and not in light.” (Lamentations 3:1-2)
There are seasons of trial, seasons of chastening. We like to talk about blessings and good things and joy. And these are all true and from our Lord. But the reality is that there are both happy seasons and not so happy seasons. God is not one-sided. He is just and true. There are joys and sorrows, blessings and chastenings. And chastenings are hard, and painful.
Even when I cry out and call for help, He shuts out my prayer (Lamentations 3:8).
The Bible aslo says that when we call for help, He will answer (Isaiah 65:24). But here in Lamentations is a season of chastening.
If we deny these seasons, if we only focus on the blessings, it won’t stop the chastenings from happening. And we may be tempted to think something’s wrong with us and no one understands when these seasons happen. We may not share with our community for fear of judgment that we’re not seeing the blessings right now. We may stumble, fall into depression or hopelessness.
But the truth is, everyone — everyone — goes through chastening. We’ve all sinned; chastening burns it away, purifies us, builds character, makes us more like Jesus, brings us closer to Him.
We may feel embarrassed about our particular chastening. We may feel inadequate. We may feel like no one understands because they’re all talking about blessings.
But Jeremiah understood way back in ancient times. “I have forgotten happiness….My strength has perished and so has my hope from the Lord.”(Lamentations 3:17-18)
I, for one, can say I’ve been there. Chastening isn’t fun.
But it doesn’t last forever. In the next breath, Jeremiah says, “Surely my soul remembers and is bowed down within me. This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease. For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning, great is Thy faithfulness.”
That classic song we’ve sung for years — The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases…Great is Your faithfulness, O Lord — comes in the midst of great chastening, one of the greatest chastenings ever: when the Jews went into exile.
Jeremiah remembered and proclaimed God’s love and faithfulness in the midst of chastening.
It’s important for me to remember that the chastening didn’t end when Jeremiah recognized God’s faithfulness. The chastening continued for 70 years. He went through it in pain and being misunderstood.
But he got through it. He “bowed down”. He “recalled the Lord’s lovingkindness” and “had hope”. And God was with him.