Text: Lamentations 3:22-27
As we rapidly approach the end of another year, it is normal and healthy to look back and evaluate the year. It is vital to spend some time in prayer, looking back and evaluating our lives. How have we grown? And to have the courage to look at the mistakes we have made, learning from them and making adjustments to our lives. If we are not more like Jesus today than we were this time last year, we need to take a serious look at our Christian walk. Often times looking back is painful, reminding ourselves of the hurts we have experienced, perhaps the loss of a loved one, or the sting of a broken relationship, or maybe the regret of missed opportunities. But if we look back and are honest with ourselves, we will also see something that even in the midst of brokenness and pain is undeniable, we will see the faithfulness of God. It is in the midst of pain and suffering, struggles and hardship that God is most real to us.
It is widely agreed that the prophet Jeremiah is the author of Lamentations. This poetic collection was probably written after 586 BC, right after the fall of Jerusalem and the time when the Southern Kingdom of Judah was taken into exile. The people were still overwhelmed with grief, Jeremiah himself describes the agony of the time and the personal pain that he himself went through. The book of Lamentations describes in detail some of the pain and the anguish that the nation experienced. But Jeremiah was not simply a reporter recording the things he was seeing, no, he was personally in pain as well. Looking at the verses that precede our scripture reading today, we see a vivid picture of the suffering prophet. He ascribes his affliction to the hand of God, he understands that this is God’s punishment for the sins of the nation.
Can you imagine the depths of despair that Jeremiah was experiencing, it was not a happy time of looking back.
But then we see a shift in his mindset, in verse 21 we read; “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:”
He begins to look at the faithfulness and love of God, and he sees things from a different perspective. In the midst of his pain, he sees the compassion of God! He understands that God is compassionate in his correction and discipline. God is not playing with his people, rather he is working out his perfect plan.
Looking back on 2014 at Grace Point, we can also see the faithfulness and compassion of God. It has been a year of change, and a year of fruitfulness. I believe that we have seen the beginning of a revival that the Lord is doing in our midst. We are seeing lives changed and the community being impacted with the Gospel message of Jesus Christ.
On a personal level, this has been a defining year for us. At the beginning of 2014 we were in South Africa visiting my mom and family, and we really did not know what the Lord had for us. It was a time of uncertainty that certainly stretched our faith. I knew that the Lord wanted me to apply for the position at Grace Point, but couldn’t see how it would all work out. It seemed all to unlikely. Yet we began the interview process. Graduating from Seminary in May and beginning the position of Senior pastor here on August 1st, all seemed to happen so quickly and smoothly. It was not without its stress, but the Lord was clearly moving and directing our path. I had the absolute joy of baptizing Christie, and in addition to all this we were miraculously blessed to be able to buy a house right near the church.
Maybe for you, 2014 was a very difficult year, you experienced the sharp pain of the loss of a loved one. You may have experienced some other loss or personal brokenness. I want to assure you that what Jeremiah experienced is still valid. If you go through trials and pain without God, it is impossible to sustain hope, true hope can only be found in the promises and the knowledge of the faithfulness of God. You heavenly Father knows you better than you know yourself, he is working all things together for your good as Paul writes in Romans 8:28. He has not forgotten you, his promises are still valid. We are always in such a rush to get out of the hot fire of the crucible that God has us in, we want to find a shortcut, an easy way out to avoid the pain and discomfort. But God knows what you need, and he Loves you more than you can imagine.
The truth that we so easily forget is that we are not made for this world, this world of corruption and sin will pass away, and Jesus will come again as our savior and King. Our role throughout our journey here on this earth is to be the salt and the light, declaring his praises and proclaiming the message of Jesus to a lost and dying world.
We need to remember that we are living for eternity, this brief sojourn on earth is merely a blink of an eye, but the decisions we make here and now affect eternity.
So this week as you look back, I encourage you to spend some time sitting down and writing a journal. Asking the Holy Spirit to remind you of the many times that God has been faithful to you, and I am sure you will be surprised. Looking back is not healthy if we wallow in the pain or regret. Rather looking back should fuel our passion to give more of our lives to living for Jesus next year. Committing to make the most of every opportunity and making our lives count.