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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Is this really "the worst"?

Give some thought to this one:  The Worst is Never the Worst.

Sometimes I think we imagine the worst, hope for the best, but really have no idea what to expect when life gets a little crazy!  Lamentations is not the most well-read book in the Bible, but it is there for a very specific purpose.  Probably because there is some great wisdom in this third chapter.  First, let me just set out the context.  Jeremiah is the writer and this is considered to be one of the poetic books of the Bible.  The primary purpose in writing was to mourn the huge loss of the Jerusalem, and more importantly, the Temple.  Judah is taken into exile, probably under the Babylonian rule, and now there is great turmoil and sorrow in the land.  Nothing has been the same since.  In fact, the Book of Lamentations is read at the Wailing Wall weekly as a memorial of the great sorrow and tragedy of losing their holy city.  The very title of the book in Hebrew means "How" or "Alas" and was a word commonly used during the funerals of Old Testament times.  The opening words of the book say it all:  She dwells among the nations, but she has found no rest. (1:3)  Then, almost without warning, we find this little note of hope right in the midst of all the anguish spoken in the words of this tiny book:

God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, to the woman who diligently seeks.  It’s a good thing to quietly hope, quietly hope for help from God.  It’s a good thing when you’re young to stick it out through the hard times.  When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself.  Enter the silence.  Bow in prayer.  Don’t ask questions: Wait for hope to appear.  Don’t run from trouble.  Take it full-face.  The “worst” is never the worst.  (Lamentations 3:25-30 MSG)

The purpose of the writings of Jeremiah to Judah were really thought to offer three things:  reproof for their failure to recognize and serve their God whole-heartedly; instruction to get them back on track; and hope for a restoration beyond their capability, but definitely within the abilities of their God!  Hmmm...seems to me there are times in our own lives when we need exactly these three things, as well!  We don't always "have skin" in the game, do we?  Sometimes we drift a little, getting ourselves off-course as it applies to "whole-hearted" devotion.  It is good to know we are never without hope!

Looking at our passage, there are several points which will provide us with some insight into rising above the "worst" in our lives:

- God proves himself in our waiting and our seeking.  If you have ever had to really seek something which was just not immediately in your view, then you might just know what Jeremiah was saying here.  You get a little focused, don't you?  You direct all your attention, regardless of the other stuff demanding your attention, on what it is you are seeking.  Until you find it, you are "on a mission".  Sometimes, I have to take time to stop to think - in the "thinking" times, I discover what it is I was looking for!  Amazingly enough, God is found in the seeking and the waiting - and it is exactly in those moments where he proves himself faithful, graceful, and merciful to us!

- Life gets heavy and sometimes there is just a whole lot of stuff which is hard to take.  We just find ourselves burdened by what our choices bring into our lives.  I cannot tell you the times I have chosen one thing, only to find it has delivered into my life exactly the opposite of what I imagined it would do.  Jeremiah's reminder to us is to get alone with God - there we will finally figure out that the heaviness is not what he desires for our lives.  In "getting alone" with God, we get "staying power" for the longer hauls in life.  Ever want to just "bale"?  If so, you probably need a little "staying power" which comes no other way than in the "filling times" of being infused with the hope God gives.

- It is easiest to ask "why" or "how", but the greatest revelation comes in asking the "who" question.  When we ask the right question, we get the answer which brings the solution to the problem.  I think this is what my algebra teacher may have been trying to teach me when he was always telling me to "solve for X" in a problem.  Guess it will come as no surprise to you to hear that I finally found out "X" always equals GOD.  Problems of my own making multiplied by issues which are beyond my control always equal God's best opportunity to prove himself greater than my sin!  We always want to "solve for" the WHY or the HOW in life.  God wants us to "solve for" the WHO.  

Now, Jeremiah pens the words, "The worst if never the worst."  Really?  Some of our circumstances look pretty awful, don't they?  In our imagining, nothing could be worse.  I honestly think God was using Jeremiah to remind Judah, and us, our worst is always NEVER the worst because God's mercy holds back the torrents of "worst" which we will NEVER experience!  Yep, things might be a little narly (extreme) right now, but they are not the "worst".  If we trust God, his grace is holding back the "worst"!  Now, this should give us hope!  Just sayin!