I think if I elaborate further, most of my readers will nod, annoyed, as they already know this and agree with it.
But we probably all do it; read half of David's Psalms, praising God and skip the 'curse my enemies' portions and all the exact detail David likes to use in describing how he wants God to avenge him. I don't think its really a bad thing during our personal devotion time (but, hopefully we are not focused on revenge during that time with God!).
Today I was thinking of entering into my quiet time with God by reading a Psalm; an uplifting, cheerful one to partner with the bright morning and my delicious pineapple for breakfast.
I accidentally opened to Lamentations. Not exactly a cheerful book.
I read the chapter with the famous verse:
"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness." Lam 3:22,23
Isn't that just so nice? I'm tempted just to read that part and no further.
But I read the whole chapter, starting with the beginning, which is not so nice.
Verses 17 - 19 I found very fitting to explain my situation when I was living in Edmonton:
"Peace has been stripped away, and I have forgotten what prosperity is.
I cry out, 'My splendor is gone! Everything I had hoped for from the Lord is lost!'
The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words."
And I consider which homelessness was more frightening, more bitter.
On crutches, dependent on friends and taxis and cars of friends. With only about 100 lbs total of everything I owned- mostly clothing and shoes and two winter coats. But I was surrounded in love and daily encouraged.
Able bodied, complete with a vehicle on my own and mere blocks away from an apartment I had claim to, full of furniture, electronics, and plenty of possessions. In this, even paying rent to the friend I stayed with, I felt as though I had nothing, I felt like I was in poverty so much deeper than lack of material things.
That "dark pit" as Jeremiah refers to, rightfully has to be acknowledged. We should not ignore or suppress it, Jeremiah says "I will never forget this awful time..."
Maybe not in the sense that one can never forget, but to chose to acknowledge pain and that part of one's life. Everyone has some dark pit, some desperate time that they would like to skip over and just jump ahead to the nicer verses, more pleasant part of their lives. "God is faithful! His mercies are new every morning!"
Which is entirely true.
But we only really understand this truth because of times when God showed himself to be faithful - which probably happened through a hard-time. Acknowledging a difficult time in our lives allows us to genuinely attest to the faithfulness of God.
Jeremiah leads into the famous verses with this:
"Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this...
Great is his faithfulness, his mercies begin afresh each morning.
I say to myself, 'The Lord is my inheritance, therefore, I will hope in him!'"
Because Jeremiah acknowledges his pain, and inspite of it dares to hope, it makes it all the more powerful.
Jeremiah declares that the Lord is his inheritance. Before, he said that everything he had hoped for was lost. Good.
Good? Yes, good!
Because now, his hope is in God and God has become his inheritance, his success, his definition of prosperity. His own dreams have been destroyed, yes, it's sad. But they have been replaced by a hope in God and in something so much greater than his own miniscule dreams.
I'm officially divorced now, and don't feel as though I need to be apologetic about it. I also don't feel ashamed about it. However, I feel often awkward mentioning this fact among Christians or at church when I am meeting new people because they are often awkward about it.
They want to comfort me, which is nice, but the painful part and the struggle is over, I'm fine.
They want to offer me hope - "oh, you're still young and have your looks, you'll get another man." Which is VERY awkward and I want to back out of that conversation immediately.
They want to make suggestions, "Next time you need to date someone who is ____" (fill in with whatever word you chose, I've probably heard it) or "That's why you shouldn't date someone from another culture..." (Since I live in another culture, I guess I am setting myself up for failure, by their frame-of-mind). So I just nod and smile, because I don't really want to respond to that and start a conversation on that subject.
Or, they pity me, which is probably the worst of all. Because I don't feel bad about anything, I don't have regrets and I probably didn't bring up the subject, because I don't want sympathy or anyone to feel bad for me. But they asked, and therefore, I answered.
Not very long ago, my Canadian family and I were discussing futures and relationships. Now, they know pretty much all the details, and have faithfully prayed for me and talked for hours on the phone when I needed it. They knew how hard it all was and how much pain I went through and all that I lost or gave up. They have a pretty good understanding of my 'devastation.' Mama mentioned the fear that something that happened to me could similarly happen to one of her daughters- that she would marry a man who would stop loving God and it would devastate her whole future.
And I remember that I smiled, as ridiculous a response as that seems. I smiled.
We cannot control the future, we can't control other people. I mentioned that what if her daughter married a wonderful man, they had children together, a great marriage, but the man died early on in their marriage.
I can think of a woman in particular, with one young child and pregnant with another when he husband died of an aggressive cancer before the second child was born.
Yes, her life was devastated.
Yes, my life was devastated.
Many things can happen to us that devastate our lives. Even small things that hurt us, they don't have to be huge, gigantic life-changes.
As someone described, this woman would have been destitute - while 7 months pregnant and a baby on the hip - had God not stepped in and done a miracle.
She named the baby Joy.
And within only a few years, this hopeful woman remarried, immigrated to Canada and now lives in a cozy cottage on and island in British Columbia.
I reminded Mama that she had raised her daughters to be women of faith, who depended on God. No matter what happens in their future - car accidents, cancers, spouses or storms - what God has prepared for her daughters, the future he planned cannot be taken from them. His future for us is strong enough to withstand any devastation.
A lot of my hopes and dreams have changed, some are completely gone. And that's okay, because compared to what God had for me, they were small dreams. And this future God is laying before me is so wonderful that, while I understand the sympathy is well-meant, it seems very inappropriate.
So please, don't pity me. My hope and my future is in God, not wrapped up in a homeless, impoverished life. And while I acknowledge the darkness that he has taken me out of, I remember that "The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!"