“Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:19-23)
It is easy to lose hope. It has happened to all of us at times, and can be triggered by any number of causes: a sudden job loss, recurring cancer, mounting financial stress, or multiple car repairs to name just a few. As these struggles continue to mount the stress often causes us to move our focus from where it should be, on God, to the struggles of our lives. When this happens, it becomes easy to lose hope.
We know better. Intellectually, we know that God does not promise a life of luxury and ease, but instead that in this world we will have troubles. We have been taught that God is bigger than any stress or struggle we may encounter. Yet, we still lose hope under the impending weight of the difficulties piled up against us.
But we are not alone. The writer of Lamentations is struggling with hope. The author is a resident of Jerusalem during the days when the city is under siege from the Babylonians. The author witnesses the destruction and loss of a once great city and laments what has happened because of the community’s sin. God had warned them that exile was coming if they did not repent, yet still the sin remained. Now, Jerusalem was suffering. The author possibly even writes these poems as the city is being destroyed and the smoke is rising from the ashes. Even though Jeremiah and others are promising that exile will not be the end, it is hard to find hope in a far off dream. While the author is trying to remain faithful, clearly the damage and impending doom are taking their toll. “My soul continually remembers my affliction and wanderings.” The darkness appears to be pressing in. There is no where to turn. All hope is lost.
But hope is not lost. There is one thing that keeps the author going, memories of God’s love that continually flow into life. God’s love never ceases. It is new every morning. From moments as simple as the rising of the sun and the budding of a flower, to moments as transformative as the healing of cancer or the providing of resources. God’s love is ever-present. God’s love is continuous. And it is not only the memory of past experiences of God’s love but it is a reminder of the truth that God’s love is ever-present in the future. It is new every morning.
We must find ways to remind ourselves of this truth. In those moments when hope is fading, we must find ways to remember the steadfast love and mercies of the Lord. We must develop practices in our lives in order to recall God’s love and keep our focus on the only unchanging reality.
This can be done through friendships of accountability, having people you trust to speak truth into your life, but these friendships must be developed with care. If one has not earned the right to speak into another’s life the advice or encouragement may become more patronizing than helpful. That being said, a word kindly spoken through a trusted friend can be extremely powerful.
There are also personal ways to develop this discipline. Learning the art of journaling about your day or engaging each evening in the ritual of examining the day that was just completed and looking for moments in which God was present can serve as reminders of God’s faithfulness in life. As one learns the truth that God has been faithful in the past one can begin to believe that even when it appears God is absent, God will be faithful in the future because God is always present.
Ultimately, we must realize that as we encounter difficult times our hope can not be based on the present circumstances. Instead, if we are to have hope, it must be based on the faithfulness of God. God’s love and mercies never cease. And even though at the moment we may be stuck in the darkness of night and pain, the morning dawn is just a few hours away. So take courage, God’s mercies are new every morning.