Have you ever asked yourself what God is like? It is one thing to know God exists and something more profound to know what He is like. To know what God is like is to know His character. This is the foundation of a meaningful relationship with Him. In our human interactions, we know that it’s impossible to have a meaningful relationship with someone you don’t know. Perhaps, this is one of the reasons God reveals Himself to us. It is worth noting that if He didn’t reveal Himself to us, we would have no way of knowing Him.
In the book of Exodus, God describes Himself to Moses in words I find astonishing. He says this about Himself: “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” [Exodus 34:6 NIV]. Centuries later, Jeremiah, as he wept over a decimated Jerusalem, penned these magnificent words about God’s character: “…but this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” [Lamentations 3:21-23 ESV].
I sang those words from Lamentations as a kid but I never gave it much thought. Recently, I did an in-depth study on that passage and I was struck by the steadfast love of God. Like Jeremiah, many people are currently going through traumatic times. Jeremiah described himself as “…a man who has seen affliction…a man in darkness without any light…someone besieged and enveloped with bitterness and tribulation…someone desolate…a laughing stock of all people and an object of their taunts…someone filled with bitterness and filled with wormwood…someone bereft of peace who has forgotten happiness…” and unsurprisingly, “someone who is depressed” [Lamentation 3:1, 2, 5, 11, 14-15, 17, 20].
Those are pretty vivid descriptions. Yet, it’s in the depth of this experience that Jeremiah recalls God’s steadfast love and finds hope. There is a lie out there that those who believe in God don’t experience afflictions and hardships. Unfortunately, many have believed this lie and when faced with challenging situations, their faith in God falters. God never promised us a trial-free life, anyone who tells you otherwise makes Jesus a liar [see John 16:33]. However, Jeremiah shows us how to respond when the walls are caving in on us. He instructs us to take our focus off our affliction and recall – bring into focus in our minds – who God is and what He is like.
King David writes this: “Bless the Lord, O my soul and forget not all his benefits” [Psalm 103:2]. What are some of those benefits? David tells us that God: “…forgives all our sins and heals all our diseases…redeems our lives from the pit and crowns us with steadfast love and compassion… [Psalm 103:3-4]. Similarly, David also tells us that God will do this because He is “…compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding (limitless) in steadfast love.” [Psalm 103:8]. Jeremiah’s words show that he remembered who God is and what He has done in the past. The art of remembering is so important for children of God because the circumstances of life can make us doubt God and forget what He has already done for us.
Paul reminds the church in Ephesus (and us) the extent of this limitless steadfast love of God. He says this: “But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus so that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus” [Ephesians 2:4-7]. This is the destiny of every child of God and nothing can alter this, nothing can separate us from the love of God [Romans 8:38-39]. So, if God has already done this for us, what are the chances He won’t hear us when we cry to Him in our affliction?
A friend remarked recently that there is no ambiguity in God’s Word and it’s so true. However, my biggest challenge isn’t remembering what God has said, it’s believing it. I am currently grappling with the question: “what would my life look like if I truly trusted God and believed His Word?” If you haven’t considered this question, I urge you to, because how you live your life is the exact gauge of how much you trust God. Are you bold in the face of fearful and life-threatening situations? Are you at peace when the walls are caving in? Are you confident in the salvation of God? If you can’t honestly answer “yes” to these questions, then it is worth reviewing who you believe God to be as well as the quality of your relationship with Him. We can’t trust God and remain fearful of anything else.
Lastly, the outcome of remembering what God has done and trusting Him is hope [Lamentations 3:21]. Paul tells us to boast in this hope because it will not be put to shame [Romans 5:2]. Remarkably, Paul traces a link between suffering and hope: “…suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” [Romans 3-5]. How do we know that this hope will not be put to shame? As I said last week, the resurrection of Jesus is God’s exhibit A, the most convincing expression of His steadfast love for us [1 John 4:9-10]. Will we, like Jeremiah, remember who God is and what He has already done for us in our afflictions? Will we trust Him regardless of our circumstances? Will we place our hope in Him?