Best of Daily Reflections: The Wild Ride of Faith
The memory of my suffering and homelessness is bitterness and poison. I can’t help but remember and am depressed. I call all this to mind—therefore, I will wait. Certainly the faithful love of the LORD hasn’t ended; certainly God’s compassion isn’t through! They are renewed every morning. Great is your faithfulness.
I made one of my worst decisions as a parent on December 21, 1996. It was my son’s fourth birthday. We celebrated by taking him to Disneyland in California. I wanted to do something special for Nathan. I decided to take him on Space Mountain, a hi-tech roller coaster. He was just barely tall enough to go on the ride, so ignoring my wife’s fervent protests, Nathan and I headed off for Space Mountain.
As the fast part of the ride began, I knew instantly that I had made a terrible mistake. The twists and turns of Space Mountain, which happened mostly in darkness, were thrilling for a 39-year-old father, but terrifying to a four-year-old son. Nathan didn’t scream or cry. But I could sense his fear. I felt terrible. When the ride ended, I didn’t say anything. Finally, in a little timid voice, Nathan said, “Dad, I don’t think I should go on this ride again until I’m eight.”
Let we warn you right now. Lamentations 3 is a wild ride. If you don’t like roller coasters, you should brace yourself for some of the most stunning twists and turns in all of Scripture.
The opening verses of chapter 3 include some of the most personal, painful laments of the whole book. We read verses like, “[The Lord] crushed my teeth into the gravel; he pressed me down into the ashes” (3:16). In utter discouragement, the writer of lamentations confesses, “I thought: My future is gone, as well as my hope from the LORD” (3:18). He adds, “The memory of my suffering and homelessness is bitterness and poison. I can’t help but remember and am depressed” (3:19-20). You just can’t get any lower than this.
But then, as the text rushes at full tilt toward utter despondency, we read something that jerks us in the opposite direction, “I call all this to mind—therefore, I will wait. Certainly the faithful love of the LORD hasn’t ended; certainly God’s compassion isn’t through! They are renewed every morning. Great is your faithfulness” (3:21-23). How unexpected! The writer moves shockingly from despair to confidence, even celebration. Talk about a wild ride. Surely, Lamentations 3 is one of the wildest in the biblical canon.
In the days ahead, I want to consider this passage more closely. For now, let me encourage you to think about the wild ride of this text and what it suggests about faith.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Has your relationship with God ever felt like a wild ride? When? What happened? How is it possible to go from utter despair to bold confidence in God’s faithfulness?
PRAYER: Dear Lord, every time I read Lamentations 3, it takes my breath away. Even though I know verses 21 and following are coming, I’m stunned to read them. What a jaw-dropping shift in language, from aching lamentation to bold faith!
Again, I thank you for the blunt honesty of Lamentations, for the writer’s willingness to share his faith as it is, not as it might be when prettied up a bit.
Moreover, I thank you for being a wise and gracious Father to me. Sometimes it feels as if you’re like I was with Nathan. But, whereas I acted in folly, you only do that which is wise, that which is best for me. Help me to trust you when I’m on the wild ride!
Today, Lord, I pray for my readers who are right in the middle of this ride. They’re being tossed to and fro in the dark. They’re hanging on for dear life. Help them, Lord, to know that you are right there with them in their workplaces, and homes and churches. Hold onto them in your love and mercy. Amen.