Friday, September 30, 2011

Lamentations 3:1-40 - Does God Allow His People to Suffer?

 God’s nature and character, as presented in the Bible, are very different from what most people imagine, and very different from what even many professing Christians believe.  And the content of Lamentations 3 is perfect example of one of the areas where people often have a false view of how God chooses to work.   A common reason given by people to choose to turn away from God is bad circumstances in their lives.  I have heard many people say “A good God would not allow (insert circumstance of choice here) to exist, so He’s not real.”  When God has become little more than a cosmic Santa Claus, who exists for no other reason than to solve all their problems and give them the things they want, it’s easy to see why people who fall on tough circumstance would see those circumstance as a reason to deny Him.

But when we look at this passage, and many other passages, we see a God who often allows people, including His chosen people, to suffer and struggle, and sometimes even causes that suffering.  Obvious examples are Job, the Apostles in the book of Acts, and of course the nation of Israel through most of its history.  Some of those struggles were in response to their own sins, and some were not.  But all were used by God to strengthen them and draw them closer to Him.  Why should it surprise us that God would choose to continue that same pattern today, with us?

Our reading today will focus around this fact.  An important aspect we need to understand as Christians, and emphasize when we share our faith, is that God is in control.  Nothing that happens is a surprise to Him, and His actions are not arbitrary.  If something happens, it happens for our good and for His glory, even if it is difficult for us to see the details while those circumstances are occurring (and it often is).  But we can trust in Him, because He has proven Himself to be trustworthy, time and time again. 

I pray this reading will be a blessing



In the beginning of this passage the writer is lamenting of God’s treatment of him

He has clearly been through a great deal of suffering.

He also clearly recognizes that God has chosen to allow these painful circumstances, if He hasn’t actually caused them directly.

He talks of bitterness, affliction, and tribulation.  He says he has been made to dwell in darkness like the dead.  He even says God “has turned His hand against me.”

He believed God had allowed, or even caused, his suffering.  Do you believe God would do that?

Does the God you believe in allow His children to suffer?  Would a loving God really do such a thing?

Lamentations 3 makes a very strong statement regarding God’s sovereignty, His lordship and control over this world.

It says “Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it?  Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?  Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins?”

God does allow, and even cause suffering.  And He does so for our good

Sometimes pain and suffering are exactly what we need, because they can cause us to depend more completely on Him.

Sometimes God will bring us to the end of ourselves so that we have to look to Him.  He did so to the nation of Israel many times.

God’s greatest desire is not our happiness, but our holiness.

His word tells us that there is a holiness without which no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14)

God is perfect and holy and pure, and He will not allow evil in His presence.

His word says He will bring every deed into judgment, and that He will punish all evil doers. 

Does that describe you?  Have you done evil in God’s sight?

Romans tells us all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  Ephesians tells us that we are dead in our trespasses and sins, and are by nature children of wrath.

Look at God’s holy law and you will see this to be true.  God gave us His commandments to act as a mirror, so we can see how we prepare with His perfect, holy standard.  If you look with an open mind and a tender conscience, you will see what you really are in God’s sight.


But this is only half of the story.  The writer then remembers who God is, and what His character is, and it gives him hope.

He says that the Lord is his portion, therefore he will hope in Him

God is a good, and loving God.  This chapter tells us that His steadfast love never ceases.

We are by nature children of wrath, but through Jesus we can be delivered from the wrath to come.

2000 years ago Jesus Christ took the wrath we deserved on a Roman cross.  All God’s anger and hatred toward sin was poured out on Him, so it didn’t have to be poured out on us. 

God is a just judge, and He will see that justice is satisfied.  But because of His mercy, He satisfied justice for those who trust in Him through the death of His own Son

Ephesians 2 says God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, made us alive together with Christ, and by grace we are saved.

Only though the grace of God can we be saved.  And we receive that grace through repentance and faith.

To repent is to turn.  Turn from sin, turn from wickedness, turn from pride, and come to God in humility. 

Then put your trust wholly in Christ to save you.

Only Christ is God in human flesh.  Only He shed His blood to pay for your sins, your moral crimes against God’s holiness, and rose, defeating death, to be our advocate, so only through Him can you be saved.

So consider this.  If your pain and struggle and suffering draw you closer to Jesus Christ so that you trust in Him, the ONLY one who can save you, is that not a great blessing?

So do not curse God for suffering.  Anything that happens that can draw you closer to Him is a blessing, and you should be thankful.

Isaiah says He will refine you in the fire of affliction, so that you will be pure before Him.  (Isaiah 48:10)  Though affliction is painful, sometimes it may be the greatest gift we can receive, for through suffering, we can come to know God

So as Lamentations says, let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord!

Trust in Him.  Put your hope in Jesus Christ, and in Him alone.

He has not promised all joy and pleasure in this life, but He has promised an eternity in heaven for those who follow Him

So turn to Christ today, and be saved!

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