Praise or Lament?

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I hope in Him!”

Lamentations 3:22-24

This season in which we live has been a time of extremes. From joy to sorrow or life to death, we have all experienced and witnessed a myriad of events that has been shaping our world.

The pandemic we are currently experiencing has not been unprecedented in history but it has been for this generation. Each generation is unique, each people group has a cultural and worldly system in which they interact that is distinct for their time.

The ways that people respond to tragedy and trials is dependent on not just by the conditioning the culture has brought upon them but by the way they perceive the circumstances they have to endure.

Perception

Mark 4:11-12 “And He said to them, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, so that

‘Seeing they may see and not perceive,
And hearing they may hear and not understand;
Lest they should turn,
And their sins be forgiven them.’ ”

Perception is a way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something. When a major event occurs in your life, how do you perceive it?

If when hearing bad news you grow despondent and the cascade of emotions continues to a point of depression, the cycle of perception can be feedback for where you place your hope. If I perceive hopelessness with the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, a politician I favor not winning, sickness, bad news, or poor health—-where have I placed my hope?

If my hope is in anything other than my Savior and the promises He has ensured for me, I will be in a continual state of lament.

Grief

The process of lamenting is to grieve loss, either through sorrow or regret. Now grieving can be for the good when the the process brings reflection, insight, or even healing.

Lamentations 3:25-27 “The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,
To the soul who seeks Him.
It is good that one should hope and wait quietly
For the salvation of the Lord.
It is good for a man to bear
The yoke in his youth.”

You see, when we grieve, we gain insight that we might not have had before—the value of something or someone we have lost. Sometimes we lose privilege, position, or power. The lamentation of Jeremiah is regarding the soon and coming loss of their nation, their way of life, and ultimately many of their lives. Even before the subjugation of Israel, the Lord brought judgement upon them for their wickedness…..it still wasn’t enough to persuade them.

Lamentations 3:28-30 “Let him sit alone and keep silent,
Because God has laid it on him;
Let him put his mouth in the dust—
There may yet be hope.
Let him give his cheek to the one who strikes him,
And be full of reproach.”

Being full of reproach is to feel disappointment for your actions. It is the first step to repentance and ultimately humility.

Where we run into trouble is when we can’t see the judgement that befalls us. We attribute bad luck to our circumstances, we make excuses by blaming others or we simply grow angry and distant because we feel like God should be continually blessing us, not allowing us to go through suffering.

Bad Culture

We have experienced a culture in America that thinks we should be privileged all the time. The mindset that we might have to do without is a view of life that has greatly hindered many people living in this country. The rise of socialism in our country is a direct result of thinking that we deserve wealth and prosperity and if it doesn’t happen, despair sets in.

The weakness of a culture lies in the environment it has established. When I witness the faith of believers in very poor regions, I see a church that is far more powerful than anything I have witnessed here. The unity of believers in a country that is very poor or one that treats them as second class citizens is much deeper and profound than in a country that is accepting of any form of religious expression.

How do we battle through the haze of indifference in a culture that seems to drive for equality and acceptance. Everyone wants their viewpoint to be considered equal with the next. In a utopian world, this would be the expectation but in a fallen world of sin, the reference point for how someone views the world is key in whether it is acceptable or not.

Who deems whether a viewpoint is acceptable? —- The Lord does.

The One who established the Universe is the One who demands righteousness, holiness, and Truth. If a position does not correlate with the structure and standard by which God ordained, it is considered unworthy.

What is the correlating action?

Judgement.

Lamentations 3:37-39 “Who is he who speaks and it comes to pass,
When the Lord has not commanded it?
Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
That woe and well-being proceed?
Why should a living man complain,
A man for the punishment of his sins?”

Praise

When the Lord brings about judgement for sin, He expresses love. When trials come and the way seems dark, He expresses love. When the things you have placed your hope in are removed, He expresses love.

How you perceive and receive the acts of the Lord will determine how much you grow through them.

Lamentations 3:40-42 “Let us search out and examine our ways,
And turn back to the Lord;
Let us lift our hearts and hands
To God in heaven.
We have transgressed and rebelled;
You have not pardoned.”

Contrary to popular opinion, the Lord doesn’t pardon sin for no reason. His Holiness demands reparations and a simply sorry doesn’t cut it. Being sorry is to regret the recourse for actions that have become detrimental to your well being. Feeling sorry for a crime you are now suffering punishment over is to regret the consequences for being caught.

Sorrow doesn’t indicate a change of heart…repentance does.

“The repentance (metanoia) called for throughout the Bible is a summons to a personal, absolute and ultimate unconditional surrender to God as Sovereign. Though it includes sorrow and regret, it is more than that. … In repenting, one makes a complete change of direction (180° turn) toward God.”

Stagg, Frank. New Testament Theology. Broadman Press, 1962.

To bring a heart of repentance before God is to say…I am willing to change. I don’t want to go in this direction anymore, I want to go in your direction. I want you to lead me Lord, I want to stop trying to figure out my circumstances on my own. I want to live by your moral law and not by the moral obscurity of this world. I choose you Jesus.

Lamentations 3:49-50 “My eyes flow and do not cease,
Without interruption,
Till the Lord from heaven
Looks down and sees.”

The Lord sees our hearts, He knows our minds, and our intentions are not hidden from Him. We may fool those around us, but He is wise to all that we are.

If you are honest with Him, you start to learn to be honest with yourself. One of the great hurdles of progressing is to learn to know yourself. If you have learned to lie so often that you live like the lies are true, you have broken away from reality and live in a world that you have contrived.

If you think hurting others is justifiable because you hurt, you live in a false reality. If you think having a hidden pattern of sexual sin is fine as long as no one is hurt, you live in a world that defines truth according to your own set of morality.

Each of these destructive tendencies lead to downfall…pain…suffering, and eventually death. Have you felt hopeless? There is a good chance you have been living with a sense of well being that is associated with your circumstances and not living by faith in God.

Lamentations 3:22-24 “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
they are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I hope in Him!”

This is our hope. Everyday the Lord’s mercies are new. Everyday He is faithful. When we look to Him for our portion, our cups are overflowing. He has compassion on us when we fail and when we do, He is patient with us.

Take your eyes off this world and place them on Jesus and you will progress from Lament to Praise—no matter what you go through.

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