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Monday, August 22, 2016

Self-talk During Dark Days (Lamentations 3:24)

 "I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him."

Sometimes even a faithful prophet needs "a good talking to". Jeremiah has faithfully prophesied for twenty-plus years to a rebellious people and a succession of rebellious kings.
  • He has seen the holy city of Jerusalem besieged and destroyed.
  • He has seen friends, family, and priests, prophets, and the citizens of Jerusalem taken into captivity to Babylon.
  • Songs making fun of Jeremiah have been written and sung. He has been mocked publicly.
  • He has spent his entire prophetic ministry disrespected and unheeded.
  • And now he struggles with depression, "I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me."
Jeremiah doesn't allow his feelings of failure and resulting depression to paralyze him. He recognizes his depression for what it is. He is tired, worn out and his situation appears hopeless, but he takes himself by the scruff of the neck and addresses his depressed state, "I say to myself, The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him."

Jeremiah understands that neither success nor failure define him, but rather his experiencing God in the midst of a messy ministry. His view of God sustains him while his life falls apart. Even in the midst of Jerusalem's destruction Jeremiah recognizes the goodness of God, "because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."

This narrative teaches us that even the most faithful of God's saints struggle with "failed ministry" and the accompanying disrespect, and depression. It teaches us, that though God's servants struggle with depression, their view of God will sustain them even in the midst of seemingly total failure. Finally, this narrative teaches us that sometimes we need a good talking to. Sometimes we have to take ourselves by the scruff of the neck, look ourselves straight in the eyes and speak God's truth to our downcast souls. A good look at the goodness of God sobers even the most downcast of soul.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Lamentations 3-4
  • Describe Jeremiah's physical and mental state.
  • What kind of songs were the people writing and singing about Jeremiah? How do you think these songs affected him? How does Jeremiah respond to their taunts?
  • What is Jeremiah's view of God in the midst of hardship?
  • Read Psalm 27:13 (This is a good verse to commit to memory). What does this tell you about hope? About your view of God during seasons of suffering from the consequences of sin?
  • Can any living man complain when he is punished for his sin? Why not?
  • How does God respond to Jeremiah's prayers? (verses 55-57)
  • How are the people treating Jeremiah and how does he respond?
  • With what does Jeremiah compare the people?
  • What happens in the city that describes how bad things become before Jerusalem is taken by the Babylonians?
  • What happens to the prophets and priests? What does this tell you about God?
  • How does Jeremiah express his hope regarding Zion's future?
Turning truth into prayer
Think about how what happens to Jerusalem affects Jeremiah as a spiritual leader. Pray for your pastor. Ask the Lord to give you a heart like Jeremiah's that weeps and intercedes for his people and his nation.