Will a living man complain against God? Hold that thought, we’ll come back to it.
It’s the night before treatment, and I’m looking for words to describe all that’s running through my mind. Not quite fear or anxiety, it’s something more of a sobering, focused intensity of soul. Similar to the feeling of the start of a mission or critical race of some kind. I want to run this race for the Lord and honor Him. I have resolved there will be no complaints, no self pity, and no second guessing God. I want to embrace whatever hardship He desires, for His glory.
In my Bible reading today, the Lord amazingly led me to Lamentations 3. Throughout this trial God has continually called me to the study of Jeremiah, a prophet called of God as a young man. He was called of God to preach, but also to suffer, though God promised to deliver Him in all. At Lamentations 3, we find Jeremiah in a very transparent moment sharing his deepest emotions and human perspective on the suffering that God allowed. The first twenty verses are pretty transparent and raw— even scary if you don’t understand the heart of God. Just before reading chapter 3, ironically, I had read all of the technical documentation of every chemo medication I will receive tomorrow and all of the potential risks and side effects— both short and long term. (What a blessing!) It struck me that in the first twenty verses Jeremiah sounded a bit like he was on chemo! Especially verse fifteen where he states, “He hath filled me with bitterness, he hath made me drunken with wormwood…” (I vote we change the name of “chemo” to “wormwood”!)
But then at verse 21, he radically turns a corner! He moves from the human perspective to the spiritual perspective. Take a look!
“This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.
The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.” (Lamentations 3:21-26)
Wow! Even in the midst of bitterness, Jeremiah recalls how good God is! On the very eve of leading me into some discomfort, God reminds me to keep a right perspective through the struggle. He reminds me that this is from His hand, and regardless of what my human emotions tell me, He is still faithful!
Jeremiah continues describing God’s heart in verse 31-33: “For the LORD will not cast off for ever: But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies. For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men.” In other words, God doesn’t take pleasure in our affliction. It’s not His heart to merely browbeat us out of impulse. And even in grief which He allows, He has compassion and mercy.
It gets even better at verses 39-41: “Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins? Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the LORD. Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens.”
A living man— especially a saved man, certainly has no right to complain before the Lord. How blessed we are that God doesn’t deal with us according to our sin and His justice. If all God ever did was save me— giving the life of Christ for my ransom, then any burden He allows in this life should pale in comparison to salvation. In light of salvation, whatever God chooses to do with the rest of my life should be just fine!
Simply put, the right response to affliction is to examine ourselves, draw close to God, be purged by His hand, and allow patience to have her perfect work in our hearts and through our lives. (James 1)
Matthew Henry said it this way: “Happy shall we be, if we learn to receive affliction as laid upon us by the hand of God… While there is life there is hope; and instead of complaining that things are bad, we should encourage ourselves with the hope they will be better. We are sinful men, and what we complain of, is far less than our sins deserve. We should complain to God, and not of him.”
I love that! “What we complain of is far less than our sins deserve.” How true! And then the challenge—complain to God, not of Him! As much as God hates murmuring (complaining from a bitter spirit against His very heart), He welcomes mourning (bringing our truthful hearts, mournful communications, and our very burden to Him)! He throws open the throne room of Heaven and invites us—fallen, pathetic creatures—to boldly cast all of our cares upon Him and to find grace to help in time of need. He doesn’t expect us to relish the afflictions, but He command us to resort to Him and rejoice in Him, in spite of them.
And so, the night before chemo— slightly intense, but also restful that this is all of God’s hand. Anything from God’s hand is going to be OK. God’s heart is always good, and the same hand that leads us into trials also holds us in them.
Many things are uncertain right now, but of one thing I am absolutely certain—God has nothing less than my absolute BEST in mind, both now, and for all of eternity.
Read it slowly, one more time:
“This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.
The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.” (Lamentations 3:21-26)