Hoping and Rejoicing When It Hurts (Lam. 3:42- )
Dogs are often social creatures, given to adorning your face with long, drooling licks. Some think these are kisses but it’s probably a dog’s way of slobbering on you without getting punished. Call a dog and get ready. Here comes the calvary.
Cats on the other hand are choosy about responding to summons. “Here kitty, kitty!” works if you’ve got a bowl of his favorite food at your feet. If the only reward that you have for your feline friend is your loving self, though, he may just ignore you.
When he hears, “Here, kitty, kitty,” he acts like Schultz on Hogan’s Heroes—“I hear nothing. I see nothing.”
You persist, “Here kitty, kitty, kitty.” You call is greeted by studied aloofness. “HERE, KITTY, KITTY!”
And finally, “Get over here you stupid cat!”
Dog Thoughts, Cat Thoughts
My thoughts are often more like cats than dogs. Instead of running to me with their tongues lolling and a doggy smile on their face, they look my direction as if I were a wandering idiot, then they meander off wherever their heart leads them.
One of the keys to joy in tough times, though, is our thought life. If my thoughts wander around like cats, doing what they wish, I’m not likely to be victorious. Here’s something from a fellow who knew how to control his thought life.
“ and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope…” (Lam. 3:20, 21)
Let’s see what this writer did (probably Jeremiah). He was in a horrible situation, his country ravaged by enemies, but in addition he had faithfully delivered the word of the Lord. And many of his people despised him for it and worked for his downfall.
I like that phrase, “call to mind.” It’s like there’s a thought that’s not present and this fellow summons it. Joy stands waiting to be called. Or joy attacks us when we call certain truths to mind.
“Come here faith! Come here memories of God’s faithfulness in the past. Come here promises of what God said in His Word. Come here knowledge of the nature of God. Get out of here doubt, fear, selfishness, self-pity.”
Joy is a by-product of faith in the Lord. Trust Him and joy starts licking your face.
Call up those memories of what God is like?
“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;” (Lam 3:22-25 NIV)
If you remind yourself of these truths constantly faith grows, then hope and joy germinate from our faith.
What Are You Calling To Mind?
What kind of thoughts and memories are you “calling to mind?” God’s love and faithfulness or your weakness? The impossibility of what you see, or the power and care of your God?
C’mon David! Do you remember your failures, or the times God helped you to win? Do you constantly picture defeat and what terrible things might happen, or do you call for those promises of God to fill up your thoughts?
Do you try to measure up to deserve God’s blessings or do you repent for your failures, trust His forgiveness, and expect God to work for you?
What are you putting in your mind?
When you hurt, it’s easy to focus on the pain. When the one who roars like a lion screeches, it’s hard not to allow that to echo through your thoughts.
But we can call things to mind. Call faith! Call the memories of his faithfulness to you. Call your knowledge of how God really is, not how Satan says He is. Trust the Lord Jesus. Even in hard times. Especially in hard times.
“3:31 For no one is cast off
by the Lord forever.
32 Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
so great is his unfailing love.
33 For he does not willingly bring affliction
or grief to anyone.”
Armed with these truths we know:
“ it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.” (3:26, NIV)
“Wait.” We don’t like that, do we? Sometimes we wait a few hours. Sometimes we wait years. Sometimes the prayer is answered in your children’s lifetime and not yours. Be we wait in confidence, knowing He’s got it in control.
One other thing we need to do in hard times: take a hard look at our life and see if we had something to do with these tough times. Then if the answer appears to be, “yes,”repent and change.
“3:40 Let us examine our ways and test them,
and let us return to the LORD.
41 Let us lift up our hearts and our hands
to God in heaven, and say:
42 “We have sinned and rebelled
and you have not forgiven.”
Not all tests come as the result of our rebellion or sin, but some do. Have we been unfaithful in how we handle our money? Are we at war with someone else? Have we been unfaithful to our promises? Have we justified sin in our life?
Repent and he will forgive. But it we persist in following a way that’s not his, we live in the land of reaping what we’ve sowed.
Cat People … Dog People
God emphasizes how important it is to come when He calls. Let’s be like dogs and not cats when it comes to responsiveness to the Father.
“Repent at my rebuke!
Then I will pour out my thoughts to you,
I will make known to you my teachings.
But since you refuse to listen when I call
and no one pays attention when I stretch out my hand,
since you disregard all my advice
and do not accept my rebuke,
I in turn will laugh when disaster strikes you;
I will mock when calamity overtakes you—
when calamity overtakes you like a storm,
when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind,
when distress and trouble overwhelm you.
“Then they will call to me but I will not answer;
they will look for me but will not find me,
since they hated knowledge
and did not choose to fear the Lord..”
(Proverbs 28: 23-29, NIV)