The Despair Default
By Ric Shields – October 2018
If you have heard me speak of the LORD’s faithfulness, you are likely to have also heard me say something along these lines: “Faithful is not just what He does; Faithful is who He is. Faithful is the very nature and character and God.”
But, does God have to be faithful? As the One who rules the entire universe, wouldn’t it also seem reasonable for Him to do whatever He pleases and whenever He pleases to do it?
The Book of Lamentations was written amidst the havoc following Jerusalem’s destruction. The city was deserted; the treasures of the temple had been plundered by the Chaldeans; the streets and the city gates were desolate and many of the inhabitants were in exile; the destruction brought about a severe famine and people were bartering treasures for food just to stay alive; the bodies of dead men and women, young and old, lined the streets. If ever there was a time to question the faithfulness of God or a time to ask, “What about your covenant of love that would last for a thousand generations?” it was then.
Just over one year ago, burglars kicked in the front door of our house and stole cash and possessions – including passports, birth certificates, our Marriage License, and Social Security cards. We were left feeling vulnerable, hurt, and with resentment for those who stole from us. It was hard to sleep for the next several nights and every knock on the door put us on edge. We felt violated. If you ever been burglarized or robbed, it’s likely you understand how we felt.
Robbery and burglary are just some of the ways people can feel violated. For others, their dignity was stolen when they were abused emotionally, physically, sexually or in all those ways at the same time. It’s possible that you or someone you love may have been physically assaulted; a friend or loved one may have been killed. You may have wondered or even doubted if you could ever trust someone again.
Maybe you have experienced horrific loss in an automobile accident or your when house burned. Someone you loved…or possibly even you…became critically ill. Is there a situation you experienced that filled you with disappointment, deep pain, or bitterness? Has there been a time when you looked to God and said, “I thought you were faithful! Where were you when I needed you the most?”
You could insert your own story here because with a similar backdrop, Jeremiah begins writing chapter 3. Then, in an abrupt turn, he writes the following statements in Lamentations 3:19-24:
19I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. 20I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. 21Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: 22Because of the LORD ‘s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” ~ Lamentations 3:22-24 NIV
The following statement is my simple attempt to explain God’s faithfulness: “Everything He says and does is certain.” I believe God is 100% reliable, 100% of the time. He does not fail, does not forget, does not falter, does not change, and does not disappoint. He says what He means and means what He says, and He will do everything He says He will do.
Several scripture passages are helpful reminders to us of God’s Faithfulness. It’s always a good practice for us to review truths like these to remind and encourage ourselves. Here are just a few of those I have found personally meaningful:
- Exodus 34:6: “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.”
- Deuteronomy 32:4: “He is the Rock, His works are perfect, and all His ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is He.”
- Psalm 25:10: “All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful.”
- Psalm 89:8: “O LORD God Almighty, who is like you? You are mighty, O LORD, and your faithfulness surrounds you.”
We can be thankful to know that God’s faithfulness does not depend on our faith. Paul’s instructions to Timothy makes it clear: “If we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” (2 Tim 2:13) It’s okay for us to be honest with God and express our real feelings like Jeremiah, but it’s not okay to stay there. Though Jeremiah had every reason to be depressed, that was not his final focus. Rather, the prophet forced himself to consider God’s character and grabbed ahold of His faithfulness.
We may not be able to help what we’re feeling, but we shouldn’t allow what we’ve gone through to keep us emotionally entangled and spiritually sidetracked. Remember what Jeremiah latched onto when his world was falling apart.
Verse 3:21 is the “hinge” on which the book, and Jeremiah’s life turned: “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope…” While his outward affliction and inward turmoil pushed him toward despair, Jeremiah forced himself to bring truth to the forefront of his mind. Like a computer that “defaults” to certain settings, each of us have a “despair default.” If we don’t reconfigure our minds, we may slide down the slippery slope of discouragement, despair, and resentment.
To break out of this pattern and cycle of despair, Jeremiah was vigilant with his thoughts. He brought other things to mind, recalling them from his memory and made himself think about what was really true in verse 21: “Yet this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope…”
What Jeremiah did was something we should do, too. We need to engage our will and deliberately focus on things other than our situation. Sometimes, we must force ourselves to remember the truth. Recall a verse from scripture. Remember a time when God demonstrated his grace and mercy to you. Push His faithfulness to the front of your mind, even when you may not feel like doing it. As you do, God will begin to restore hope to your life and crowd out the hopelessness that threatens to shipwreck you.
To say God is faithful is to say He is committed and steadfastly devoted to us. He will rescue us from under the rubble and difficult circumstances that surround and threaten our lives. By shifting our default responses from despair to hope, it will transform our lives, change our future, and give us a proper perspective of who He is; God, the one who is Faithful – Always.
© 2018 – Ric Shields
P.O. Box 2023 – Broken Arrow, OK 74013
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