"[I] remember my affliction, the wormwood and the gall.
My soul still remembers and sinks within me.
This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope."
The more famous verses of Lamentations 3 are found following this passage in verses 22-23. They are often quoted to give us encouragement and to remind us of how good God is. However, we once again have to return to the context of the passage. As a reminder, verses 22-23 say, "Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness." If you read those wonderful passages of Scripture, surely you would believe that the preceding verses spoke of some sort of victory that God had brought in the author's life. There had to be a battle in which the children of Israel prevailed that prompted such a writing. Perhaps we would think that Jeremiah had experienced some personal triumph through the help of the Lord and now he is expressing his praise and adoration to God for the victorious moment. However, in context that is not true at all. To read the entire chapter is almost painful. He writes of pain, darkness, death, and broken bones. He expresses how in his most difficult moments he felt abandoned by every one including God. This man who had served his God faithfully and continually has suffered every affliction imaginable, yet when he knelt in prayer it seemed that God was silent. Jeremiah was hated by all around him. They had turned his message from God into hate speech, and many just wanted to see him dead. This is the context of his words above. He is reflecting on all that he has experienced. The hurt and the torment seem as fresh at this moment as they ever have. His heart is not simply broken but crushed by what he has endured. Yet, it is in this state that he says "I have hope!" How can you have hope at a moment of such despair? When every one around you wants to see you dead, how do you stay encouraged?
Jeremiah knew the nature of God. He knew that God was ever present. He knew without any doubt that God was merciful. The fact that Jeremiah or any of the children of Israel had been spared and not consumed was proof of God's mercy. He knew as we learn from the Apostle John that God's very nature is love and compassion. The same God that looked on the multitudes with compassion because they were scattered without a shepherd was the same God with whom Jeremiah dealt. He knew that God's compassion was limitless. He knew that every day God would be faithful. As the faithfulness of the rising of the sun, so much more was the faithfulness of Almighty God. Discouragement only becomes defeat when we refuse to acknowledge the presence of God in our circumstances.
May you find glory in the ashes today!