During this year, 2017, I was thinking I would write to you about faithfulness, mostly God’s. But, in thinking about His faithfulness, I could not help but think about His always goodness in His faithfulness. And His steadfast love. And His gentleness. And His sometimes severe mercy. All of these are within His faithfulness and trustworthiness. In the chaos of this life, He is all of these things.
As I sit in a hospital room with my dear mother for the second time in the first seventeen days of this new year there is much time to think and to ask God to sort out, not the chaos of the circumstances ultimately, but the chaos swirling in my mind. During my group Bible Study this week we discussed God as our true reference point and we were asked to introspect and determine if we actually live with that truth in our souls or do we revert to ourselves as our reference point? I’m thinking about that now as I write. Will I give in to thoughts of how this present hospital room is affecting me, how can I fix this, how will I cope, can I muster more strength for the circumstance at hand? Or, will I surrender my body and soul and weakness and anxieties to the Lord God and trust what I know to be true about Him and His ways according to His Word? My choice.
The other evening I was poring over ancient photograph albums…the kind where the yellowed photos are inserted into four little arrow-like holders at each corner, placed meticulously on black album pages.
As I viewed these familiar pictures and the faces of my birth family at various stages of growing up I was reminded of a prayer from Valley of Vision to our “All-Sufficient King” and wondered why I fret so often.
“Thou has been mindful of me and visited me,
Taken charge of me from birth,
Cared in all conditions for me,
Fed me at Thy table,
Drawn curtains of love around me,
Given me new mercies every morning.”
And that reminded me of Lamentations…The prophet Jeremiah laments the terrible sins of his people and his own. He sees his and their wretchedness before the pure and holy God.
And that reminded me of me. Wretched, always sinning, impure motives, inconstant, un-even tempered, irritable, idol-worshipping.
Back to Jeremiah. God writes through the prophet:
“Judah had gone into exile because of affliction and hard servitude;
She dwells now among the nations,
But finds no resting place;
Her pursuers have all overtaken her
In the midst of her distress…
Jerusalem sinned grievously;
Therefore she became filthy;
All who honored her despise her,
For they have seen her nakedness;
She herself groans
And turns her face away….
The Lord is in the right,
For I have rebelled against His word;
But hear, all you peoples,
And see my suffering;
My young women and my young men have gone into captivity.
The Lord has done what He purposed;
He has carried out His Word,
Which He commanded long ago;
He has thrown down without pity;
He has made the enemy rejoice over you and exalted the might of your foes.”
Faithfulness. Faithful in His judgments. Faithful in His love. Faithful to His promises. What does it mean? We have the usual dictionary definitions:
allegiance, adherence, constancy, loyalty.
Faithful to my spouse. Faithful to my children. Faithful to care for my mother. Faithful to my church family. Faithful to my country. Following through on all my commitments. Faithful to obey. Keeping my word whether for blessing or for confrontation and discipline (which are also blessings).
God was faithful to His children, Israel. He had promised blessing for obedience and severe chastening for disobedience. And He followed through. No inconstancy with God.
And then, Jeremiah does not leave them in the discouragement and loneliness of exile forever.
Scripture is filled with doxologies after all that has gone on before.
“Remember my affliction and my roamings, the wormwood and the gall!
My soul still remembers and sinks within me. This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope: ‘Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed. Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; GREAT IS YOUR FAITHFULNESS.'”
Right now I’m “feeling” a bit exiled, not because I really am, not because of personal disobedience, but because of God’s perfect ordinations in my life and the life of all my family–and sometimes His ordinations are hard. As a result, this grand doxology from Jeremiah comforts my weary soul. It is as true today as it was for Judah–for those who belong to Jesus Christ by grace alone through faith alone through Christ alone.
My circumstances remain the same this January day but my mind and my heart are beginning to be filled with order again as I am bringing my disorderly thoughts into captivity to the obedience of Christ. My present and my future are secured by my faithful God, no matter what course my life or my mama’s life may take. Not because of my faithfulness, but His.