We get discouraged. We face spiritual, physical, financial, emotional disappoints and discouragement. Hope seems to fade. We face family issues, church issues, issues at work, with friends, etc. You know what I mean. There are wars, terrorism, societal ills, evil Christian pastors, good pastors who become discouraged, etc. On and on it goes.
What do we do?
Jeremiah, the prophet, faced this very thing, too.
Background: The Septuagint has this introduction to Lamentations: And it came to pass, after Israel was taken captive, and Jerusalem made desolate, that Jeremias sat weeping, and lamented with this lamentation over Jerusalem, and said,
Jeremiah is so discouraged, along with all Jerusalem: Lamentations 1:1-7 GNB How lonely lies Jerusalem, once so full of people! Once honored by the world, she is now like a widow; The noblest of cities has fallen into slavery. 2 All night long she cries; tears run down her cheeks. Of all her former friends, not one is left to comfort her. Her allies have betrayed her and are all against her now. 3 Judah's people are helpless slaves, forced away from home. They live in other lands, with no place to call their own—Surrounded by enemies, with no way to escape. 4 No one comes to the Temple now to worship on the holy days. The young women who sang there suffer, and the priests can only groan. The city gates stand empty, and Zion is in agony. 5 Her enemies succeeded; they hold her in their power. The LORD has made her suffer for all her many sins; Her children have been captured and taken away. 6 The splendor of Jerusalem is a thing of the past. Her leaders are like deer that are weak from hunger, Whose strength is almost gone as they flee from the hunters. 7 A lonely ruin now, Jerusalem recalls her ancient splendor. When she fell to the enemy, there was no one to help her; Her conquerors laughed at her downfall.
Jeremiah later states this: Lamentations 1:20-21 GNB Look, O LORD, at my agony, at the anguish of my soul! My heart is broken in sorrow for my sins. There is murder in the streets; even indoors there is death. 21 "Listen to my groans; there is no one to comfort me. My enemies are glad that you brought disaster on me. Bring the day you promised; make my enemies suffer as I do.
The suffering is horrible: Lamentations 2:11-12 GNB My eyes are worn out with weeping; my soul is in anguish. I am exhausted with grief at the destruction of my people. Children and babies are fainting in the streets of the city. 12 Hungry and thirsty, they cry to their mothers; They fall in the streets as though they were wounded, And slowly die in their mothers' arms.
Jeremiah cries to God: Lamentations 3:1-8 GNB I am one who knows what it is to be punished by God. 2 He drove me deeper and deeper into darkness 3 And beat me again and again with merciless blows. 4 He has left my flesh open and raw, and has broken my bones. 5 He has shut me in a prison of misery and anguish. 6 He has forced me to live in the stagnant darkness of death. 7 He has bound me in chains; I am a prisoner with no hope of escape. 8 I cry aloud for help, but God refuses to listen;
He was being tortured: Lamentations 3:52-57 GNB I was trapped like a bird by enemies who had no cause to hate me. 53 They threw me alive into a pit and closed the opening with a stone. 54 Water began to close over me, and I thought death was near. 55 "From the bottom of the pit, O LORD, I cried out to you, 56 And when I begged you to listen to my cry, you heard. 57 You answered me and told me not to be afraid.
He complains about his enemies: Lamentations 3:60-66 GNB You know how my enemies hate me and how they plot against me. 61 "You have heard them insult me, O LORD; you know all their plots. 62 All day long they talk about me and make their plans. 63 From morning till night they make fun of me. 64 "Punish them for what they have done, O LORD; 65 Curse them and fill them with despair! 66 Hunt them down and wipe them off the earth!"
Society suffers: Lamentations 5:9-12 GNB Murderers roam through the countryside; we risk our lives when we look for food. 10 Hunger has made us burn with fever until our skin is as hot as an oven. 11 Our wives have been raped on Mount Zion itself; in every Judean village our daughters have been forced to submit. 12 Our leaders have been taken and hanged; our elders are shown no respect.
His heart speaks to the pain he feels. He shouts to God: Lamentations 5:21-22 GNB Bring us back to you, LORD! Bring us back! Restore our ancient glory. 22 Or have you rejected us forever? Is there no limit to your anger?
The Psalmist, too, complains: Psalms 13:1-6 GNB How much longer will you forget me, LORD? Forever? How much longer will you hide yourself from me? 2 How long must I endure trouble? How long will sorrow fill my heart day and night? How long will my enemies triumph over me? 3 Look at me, O LORD my God, and answer me. Restore my strength; don't let me die. 4 Don't let my enemies say, "We have defeated him." Don't let them gloat over my downfall. 5 I rely on your constant love; I will be glad, because you will rescue me. 6 I will sing to you, O LORD, because you have been good to me.
In the middle of Jeremiah’s complaints, he remembers something: Lamentations 3:21-25 GNB Yet hope returns when I remember this one thing: 22 The LORD's unfailing love and mercy still continue, 23 Fresh as the morning, as sure as the sunrise. 24 The LORD is all I have, and so in him I put my hope. 25 The LORD is good to everyone who trusts in him,
Habakkuk feels much the same: Habakkuk 3:17-19 GNB Even though the fig trees have no fruit and no grapes grow on the vines, even though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no grain, even though the sheep all die and the cattle stalls are empty, 18 I will still be joyful and glad, because the LORD God is my savior. 19 The Sovereign LORD gives me strength. He makes me sure-footed as a deer and keeps me safe on the mountains.
We can speak in this same way to our counselor: Isaiah 9:6 GNB A child is born to us! A son is given to us! And he will be our ruler. He will be called, "Wonderful Counselor," "Mighty God," "Eternal Father," "Prince of Peace." [Emphasis is mine]
The Psalmist praises God for hope: Psalms 16:1-11 GNB Protect me, O God; I trust in you for safety. 2 I say to the LORD, "You are my Lord; all the good things I have come from you." 3 How excellent are the LORD's faithful people! My greatest pleasure is to be with them. 4 Those who rush to other gods bring many troubles on themselves. I will not take part in their sacrifices; I will not worship their gods. 5 You, LORD, are all I have, and you give me all I need; my future is in your hands. 6 How wonderful are your gifts to me; how good they are! 7 I praise the LORD, because he guides me, and in the night my conscience warns me. 8 I am always aware of the LORD's presence; he is near, and nothing can shake me. 9 And so I am thankful and glad, and I feel completely secure, 10 because you protect me from the power of death. I have served you faithfully, and you will not abandon me to the world of the dead. 11 You will show me the path that leads to life; your presence fills me with joy and brings me pleasure forever.
Of Messiah, it is prophesied: Psalms 22:1-2 GNB My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? I have cried desperately for help, but still it does not come. 2 During the day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer; I call at night, but get no rest.
In the midst His pain, Messiah remembers: Psalms 22:22-23 GNB I will tell my people what you have done; I will praise you in their assembly: 23 "Praise him, you servants of the LORD! Honor him, you descendants of Jacob! Worship him, you people of Israel!
If you are suffering discouragement, you are normal. God has not forsaken you.
He will listen.
He will deliver when the time is right.
So we must pray, “God deliver me.”
We must also pray, “Teach me something from this.”
Then we wait.
We can complain as often as we need to, because
Don’t give up hope.
Our souls are safe.
Even if we think we cannot tolerate any more, remember:
He suffered and knows our suffering: 1 Thessalonians 3:3 LEB so that no one would be shaken by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are appointed for this,
We do not know when deliverance comes, but it will happen: Psalms 34:19 NRSV Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD rescues them from them all.
We can help others: 2 Corinthians 1:4 NRSV who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.
God’s love for us is enduring: Romans 8:38-39 NRSV For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Finally, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 GNB For this reason we never become discouraged. Even though our physical being is gradually decaying, yet our spiritual being is renewed day after day. 17 And this small and temporary trouble we suffer will bring us a tremendous and eternal glory, much greater than the trouble. 18 For we fix our attention, not on things that are seen, but on things that are unseen. What can be seen lasts only for a time, but what cannot be seen lasts forever.
God bless you.
We Christians are in this life together.