I’m the man who has seen trouble, trouble coming from the rod of God’s anger… He hemmed me in, ganged up on me, poured on the trouble and hard times. He locked me up in deep darkness… He shuts me in so I’ll never get out… Even when I cry out and plead for help, he locks up my prayers and throws away the key… I gave up on life altogether. I’ve forgotten what the good life is like. I said to myself, “This is it. I’m finished. God is a lost cause.”
Is it possible for a righteous person to say something like this? Who was this that gave up hope? Who said God has locked out my prayers and thrown away the key? It just so happens to be the great prophet Jeremiah in Lamentations 3:1-18.
Have you ever felt like Jeremiah, that God had closed the heavens and all your prayers were lost? Like every prayer you prayed hit the ceiling and fell to the ground, broken and unheard by the very ears of God? I admit that I have felt like that. I have cried just like Jeremiah, “I am the one who has seen trouble. I’m in a situation I can’t seem to get out of.”
If we don’t believe in God’s timing, we will never understand why prayers seem to be delayed. Every promise of God will rise up to test us, unless we rest in the Lord’s timing. Joseph went through a period of being tried. In Psalm 105:19 it says, “Until the time came to fulfill his dreams, the Lord tested Joseph’s character.” Joseph’s trial of waiting broke his heart. His plea to the cupbearer, after it was revealed that the cupbearer would be released from prison, says it all, “And please remember me and do me a favor when things go well for you. Mention me to Pharaoh, so he might let me out of this place. For I was kidnapped from my homeland, the land of the Hebrews, and now I’m here in prison, but I did nothing to deserve it.” Genesis 40:14-15
There are some people who would ask, where was Joseph’s faith? He was so close to God. He could interpret dreams and mysteries. God spoke to him. He was holy and in close communion with God. So why didn’t he just rest and pray and trust in God to get him out? Why did he offer such a pitiful plea to the cupbearer saying, “Tell Pharaoh about me… help get me out of this living hell?” Because he was being tried by the Word!
We can read the Word, pray the Word, preach the Word, but until it is tested in us, it will not produce life. I have just come through a season in my own life of being severely tried by the Word. I have seen God answer many prayers, but as I was going through the past year I was looking at long-standing unanswered prayers. My crying, shouting, uplifted hands, travail—all of it seemed to not even reach God’s ears. There was no evidence of an answer anywhere. It even seemed that what appeared to be a miracle in the making was slipping away into reverse!
Let me tell you what I have learned it will take to overcome. We MUST stand on every promise God has given us; believe every promise; and pray in faith, effectually, fervently, and without doubt. Then, we MUST wait and rest, trusting the Lord to do what is right in His time and in His way. Few Christians today wait with patience for God to work in His time. The more an answer is delayed, the angrier people get. And some finally give up, thinking God doesn’t answer prayer. Can we say with Habakkuk, “Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.“?
The greatest thing about Jeremiah is that he didn’t continue in despair. He came out of that period of time into a glorious place of hope and victory. He remembered that God was full of compassion and tender mercies: “I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness, the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed. I remember it all—oh, how well I remember—the feeling of hitting the bottom. But there’s one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope: God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over). He’s all I’ve got left. God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, to the woman who diligently seeks. It’s a good thing to quietly hope, quietly hope for help from God. It’s a good thing when you’re young to stick it out through the hard times. When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions: Wait for hope to appear. Don’t run from trouble. Take it full-face. The “worst” is never the worst. Why? Because the Master won’t ever walk out and fail to return.” (Lamentations 3:21-32)
God has bottled every tear you have shed, received every cry of your heart, and listened attentively to every prayer you have spoken. You can rest assured that if you are going through a hot furnace of affliction at this very moment, God is right there with you and will see you through this difficult time. He has a purpose for everything He allows; and for every difficult trial you encounter, God gives special grace. If you will cry out to Him, He will pour His strength into you. Just like Jeremiah, you will not continue in despair. Never forget what God has brought you through, but also never forget that God’s love doesn’t run out.