Based on Lamentations 3:19-33

Do you ever feel like the difficult times that you have in your life are because of you? Maybe because of a poor choice that you made, or a string of poor choices?

Or maybe it’s apathy or laziness—doing just enough to get by in all of your vocations, whether that’s at work or at home or at your church or in your relationships. And because of the things that you’ve left undone, some or many of the people in your life suffer because of you.

I know that some of you feel that way because we’ve had that discussion. We’ve talked about it. You know that you’re not alone, because I sometimes feel that way too—that the sufferings and the hardships that I’m going through are because of things I’ve done or things I’ve left undone.

And then I come across a Scripture passage like the one we are looking at today. It is from the book of Lamentations, which was written by the prophet Jeremiah. In chapter 3, verses 32 and 33, he writes this: “Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone.” The phrase that Jeremiah writes—that God does not willingly bring affliction or grief—is interesting. In the Hebrew it literally says, “From the heart, he does not grieve or afflict anyone.”

What Jeremiah is trying to say is that it is not in God’s nature to be vindictive or take pleasure in someone’s pain because they’ve sinned. But sometimes, in God’s wisdom, he allows us to suffer because it is necessary for us so that we repent. That we repent of our poor choices. That we repent of our apathy and our laziness in our love of our neighbor and turn to God and see that that his love outweighs our suffering. That his compassion is so much greater than the consequences of our sin. That we turn from our sin in repentance. That we turn to God and see his forgiveness in Christ Jesus and see that it is greater than our sins and our suffering because of them.

Listen to the way Jeremiah describes it: “I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’ The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD” (Lamentations 3:19-26).

So repent. Turn to the Lord—the God of unfailing love, the God of compassion, the God who faithfully forgives your sin every single day. Rest quietly in that forgiveness every single day. And then, my friends, go. Go and live in that forgiveness and compassion and love, and God will bring blessings to you through all of it. He promises it.

God our Father, you work all things for the good of those who love you. Do not be deaf to our cry for mercy, but rather turn our sorrow into joy when we hear the announcement “You are forgiven!” so that our hearts may sing your praise. Today we pray for all of the young men and women who are starting basic training this summer. Calm their fears and anxieties; grant them the physical, mental, and spiritual strength to persevere; and for all of the basic trainees who are seeking something, provide a faithful Christian chaplain or local civilian pastor to answer their questions and to point them to the truth of your Holy Scriptures. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Written and recorded by Rev. Paul Horn, WELS National Civilian Chaplain to the Military, San Diego, California.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.

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