I had just finished watching CNN and saw the way people across the world were celebrating the holidays and the season of Christmas. Food, song, wine, parties, beaches, presents, church and just wondered in the midst of all these happenings, where am I and what is the state of my soul? In the words of the Christ King Jesus of Nazareth himself who came into this world that we might have the light of life: ‘If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.’ John 15:19
Chosen me out of this world? Why me? What kind of person would choose me, even to be just a friend? That too an eternal, living God? There is only ONE reason that I have come to realize why this choice: That the sovereign, creator God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would want to love me as His own. That this great, almighty, forgiving, living God would want to love me as His own son and be my Father in heaven gives rest and purpose to my restless soul. If that is the only reason then why is my soul still downcast? Why am I still struggling to feel the joy of Christmas this year? Why do I still feel trapped within the labyrinth of my own inner being? Why do I feel as if I am still walking in darkness and emptiness within the depths of my soul? Why do I feel I want to stay silent and keep to myself as I seek God for the answers to my predicament? Why?
Who can speak? ‘Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come? Why should any living man complain when punished for his sins? The writer of the Book of Lamentations (3:37), the prophet Jeremiah, laments over these questions and provides the source for the state of the condition of his own heart and soul. His admission of having tasted the discipline of God brings relief to my search for answers and peace that I am not alone.
I am the man: Yes, ‘I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of His wrath.’ Again, I quote the lamentations of the writer of the Book of Lamentations 3:1. I too have at times disciplined my own children by the rod, but only the grace of God has spared me from the sword of judgement from a compassionate God. It is such a comfort to read the cries of the heart of another human being who, despite being a prophet chosen by the LORD God of Israel nearly 2665 odd years ago, would experience such devastating loneliness and despair till his bones are crushed and he himself has aged through the process of searching out his own heart and mind in the midst of travailing for his own people Israel. Inspired by the Spirit of God, the prophet gives two main reasons that sums up the cause for such despair:
For My people have committed two evils; they have forsaken Me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water. Jeremiah 2: 13
Broken Cisterns: Only humility of spirit and an admission of the plague in my own heart can bring me to close this year 2014 with hope – hope for forgiveness through repentance to God. I know that I can only confess as a broken person with a broken world experience this year that I have committed both sins of the heart. I hewed for myself a broken cistern that quenched the Holy Spirit and dried up the living water within me. But my faith is strong and my desire to make the Lord my portion is even stronger, therefore I have hope.
As we make an inventory of all the good and bad things that have taken place this year, one thing is for certain; we belong to Jesus of Nazareth and this is an eternal assurance, sealed in the highest of heavens, that God will never forsake us but calls us to ‘Do not fear’. As I saw my three children come together for Christmas dinner around the same table, my prayer is that in their walk with God they will each ‘act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with their God’ (Micah 6:8) so their lives will be blessed with the hope that is in Christ Jesus alone, the hope of glory. Broken cisterns, broken world, broken experiences, broken souvenirs – nothing that the Cross of Christ cannot re-mold and mend because God is the potter and we have this treasure in jars of clay that allows us to not be discouraged. Blessed New Year 2015! Amen!
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 2 Corinthians 4: 7-10
∼ Reflect: The writer to the Book of Lamentations (Prophet Jeremiah) gives the ‘Call to Return to the LORD’. In my gratitude journal, reflections December 17, I wrote that I believe the Hebrew month Jesus was born was in the month of Elul – the sixth month of the Hebrew calendar. Elul is the month to ‘Return to the Lord’ – see post ‘Elul’.
Lamentations 3:1-26, NIV
I am the man who has seen affliction
by the rod of the Lord’s wrath.
He has driven me away and made me walk
in darkness rather than light;
indeed, he has turned his hand against me
again and again, all day long.
He has made my skin and my flesh grow old
and has broken my bones.
He has besieged me and surrounded me
with bitterness and hardship.
He has made me dwell in darkness
like those long dead.
He has walled me in so I cannot escape;
he has weighed me down with chains.
Even when I call out or cry for help,
he shuts out my prayer.
He has barred my way with blocks of stone;
he has made my paths crooked.
Like a bear lying in wait,
like a lion in hiding,
he dragged me from the path and mangled me
and left me without help.
He drew his bow
and made me the target for his arrows.
He pierced my heart
with arrows from his quiver.
I became the laughingstock of all my people;
they mock me in song all day long.
He has filled me with bitter herbs
and given me gall to drink.
He has broken my teeth with gravel;
he has trampled me in the dust.
I have been deprived of peace;
I have forgotten what prosperity is.
So I say, “My splendor is gone
and all that I had hoped from the Lord.”
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.