The story is told of a man on an African safari deep in the jungle. The guide before him had a machete and was whacking away the tall weeds and thick underbrush. The traveler, wearied and hot, asked in frustration, “Where are we? Do you know where you are taking me? Where is the path?!” The seasoned guide stopped and looked back at the man and replied, “I am the path.” (Max Lucado, Experiencing the Heart of Jesus)
This morning’s study topic was “freedom from hopelessness.” The picture is that when we are experiencing times of hopelessness, it is like being lost in a jungle, with no way out. We need someone who knows the way out, and that someone is Jesus!
But Jesus doesn’t always remove us from the jungle. Sometimes He tells us we are going to stay in the jungle, but thankfully, He is right there with us, guiding us, protecting us, and caring for us. Consider these words from Jeremiah, who lived most of his life in a hopeless culture which rejected God’s laws and was headed for destruction. (Sound familiar?)
Lamentations 3:19-25 – Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and the bitterness. Surely my soul remembers and is bowed down within me. This I recall to mind, therefore I have hope. The LORD’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. The LORD is my portion, says my soul, therefore I have hope in Him. The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. (NASB)
What was Jeremiah experiencing?
Affliction [oniy] – poverty, misery, depression, trouble
Wandering [maruwd] – restlessness, straying, wanderer, refugee; in the sense of maltreatment, an outcast, destitute
Wormwood [la`anah] – bitterness
Bitterness [ro’sh] – gall, venom, bitter, poisonous
Have you ever been miserable? Depressed?
Does your soul ever feel restless?
Do you sometimes feel like an outcast, destitute?
Has life brought something bitter your way?
Do you feel hopeless?
It strikes me that all these things are similar to the things that Christ Himself experienced: the rejection of His people, no place to lay His head, the bitter gall of taking on the sins of the world. His perspective was divine and sinless, however. Instead of becoming bitter, depressed and straying from God’s plan, He fulfilled it. But the fact is, in His human state, I believe He experienced all of the emotions and pressures of life that we do – yet without sin.
So it is no wonder that God’s mercy and compassion does not fail us – He knows exactly what hopelessness is.
Lovingkindness[checed] here means favor, mercy and kindness. The KJV reads a little differently: It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed. No matter which way you read it, the meaning is the same. God’s mercy never stops. If God’s mercy stopped, we would of course be consumed. But because His mercy doesn’t stop, we are not consumed.
Compassion [racham] has the literal idea of the womb, or the bowels, as a mother cherishes her unborn child, or that deep, abiding love that comes from within us – a love that feels deeply.
God’s mercy never stops – I can never exceed my limit; God will never reject me for I am His child
God’s compassion never fails – He never runs out of patience; He always feels deeply for me
God’s compassion and mercy is new every morning – I get a clean slate and a new supply every day!
God’s faithfulness is great – He will never abandon me or let me down
God is my portion – my hope is in Him – God Himself is my reward and I find hope in Him only
It is important to know that Jesus does not necessarily free us from the jungle itself, but from our hopelessness within the jungle, so that we do not stay discouraged when our circumstances do not change. We often think things will be better if they would just be different. That’s not always true. We experience God’s presence only when we stop depending on our own self. He wants us to experience Him in our weakest moments, in the most challenging situations. It is then we can feel His strength and His presence, supernaturally guiding, protecting, and strengthening us in the midst of the challenge.
I especially love that last line, The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. At first glance, we might read this as God gives us good things when we wait for or seek Him. But what gives us hope in the middle of our challenging circumstances, is the presence of God Himself. It is not what He gives us or does for us – it is Him, God Himself, indwelling us by His Spirit, speaking to our soul and filling us up with Himself. Even if our situation never changes, we can have hope.
I like to see it this way:
God is good to the one who waits for Him – when I wait for Him, I find Him good
God is good to the person who seeks Him – when I seek Him, I find Him good
What is causing you to feel hopeless today?
Wait for God. Find Him good.
Seek God. Find Him good.