Last week we looked at the last third of Lamentations 3 and some general takeaways for those of us in chronic illness: staying faithful to God and trusting in Him during a trial. This last week of our study I want to park on the big theme of the whole chapter and the book: waiting on God.
Hurry up and wait
The LORD is good to those who wait for Him,Lamentations 3:25-26, 29-31
To the soul who seeks Him.
It is good that one should hope and wait quietly
For the salvation of the LORD. . . .
Let him put his mouth in the dust—
There may yet be hope.
Let him give his cheek to the one who strikes him,
And be full of reproach.
For the Lord will not cast off forever.
I love how my Study Bible describes waiting on God:
those who wait: The idea here is the acceptance of God’s will and His timing (see Ps. 40:1; Is. 40:31). The Hebrew word for hope here translates another verb meaning ‘to hope’ or ‘to wait’ . . .Nelson Study Bible, 1327
Put his mouth in the dust is a figure of speech for conquest. The phrase pictures a captive lying face down with the conqueror’s foot on his back. Hope refers to the confident expectation that the Lord will deliver (v. 26).
These images of putting one’s mouth in the dust and giving one’s cheek to the enemy are so telling. What did God mean by them? Was He telling His people to give up? To let the Babylonians walk all over them? To NOT fight against the destruction and the captivity of all they held dear?
Yes. God was telling the Israelites to submit to the king of Babylon as he took them captive.
What? How could they give in to such a terrible experience? Two reasons: 1) this captivity was God’s doing, part of His good plan, and 2) it wouldn’t last forever.
Look at the verse that immediately follows these commands: “For the Lord will not cast off forever” (vs. 31).
God didn’t expect His people to throw up their hands and give up hope and forget everything. No, He was simply asking them not to fight the cleansing, restoring, purging work He was doing. To wait until the time was up–70 years, according to Jeremiah’s prophecy (see Dan 9:2)–and He would bring them back to their homeland.
No matter what they wanted or did, their restoration wouldn’t take place until God’s ordained time.
How does that relate to us?
God doesn’t give us a timeframe like He did the Israelites, but we know He always CAN bring us out of our valley, even though Scripture never guarantees physical restoration on this side of eternity. What He DOES promise us, however, is eternal rest and complete healing in His presence.
So in the meantime–until He physically heals us or brings us into His healing presence–like the Jews in captivity, we submit. We embrace the humiliation, the defeat, the loss, the pain. We don’t resist the chastisement, the purifying work God has ordained for us.
Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.Hebrews 12:11
Easier said than done, right? We hate suffering. We don’t like trials. We’re scared of valleys.
We want to escape out of the fire because it burns us, but God isn’t going to open the door and let us out until His work is accomplished and our faith is purer (I Peter 1:6-7). Even though it’s a painful time, we have the promise of His presence with us (Is 43:2). We have no excuse not to “wait quietly.”
The secret of victory in tough times is simply to submit to the Lord and accept the fact that “the Lord has laid it on him” (v. 28 NIV). “It is the Lord. Let Him do what seems good to Him” (1 Sam. 3:18 NKJV). We must bow before the Lord—even putting our faces in the dust—and submit to Him without complaining, knowing that in His time, He will see us through.Wiersbe, 158
Patience is a virtue . . .
I don’t think it’s any coincidence that as I was struggling to wrap up this study I read the last few chapters of Hebrews in my devotions.
Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise:Hebrews 10:35-37
“For yet a little while,
And He who is coming will come and will not tarry.”
Do you catch the parallel between the exhortation in this passage and God’s words through Jeremiah in Lamentations 3?
This reading launched me into a word study on “patience” or endurance in the New Testament. See this previous post for a definition and illustration of the word, literally meaning “to bear under” in the original Greek language. Strong’s dictionary defines it as “the characteristic of a man who is unswerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings.”
Wow. Let’s see how else this word shows up in the New Testament:
And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.Romans 5:3-4
But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.Romans 8;25
That you may walk worthy of the Lord . . . strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy.Colossians 1:10-11
Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ.II Thessalonians 3:5
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight . . . and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.Hebrews 12:1
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.James 1:2-4
You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.James 5:11
But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness,II Peter 1:5-6
“I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil . . . and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary.”Revelation 2:2-3
Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.Revelation 14:12
Stuck in the box
Let me sum it all up in an illustration. This past Thanksgiving I had to make arrangements for my rabbit, Luci, while I went out of town. A friend from church agreed to bunny-sit at her house, so the day before travel I wrote out instructions, cleaned Luci’s cage, and loaded everything into the trunk of the car.
Everything except the bunny. I put her in a cardboard box (with a towel at the bottom–I don’t have a rabbit carrier, sorry) and folded the flaps so she couldn’t get out but would still have air flow.
The little booger nosed at the flaps and started to nudge her way out. So I took her plastic igloo from her cage (which has holes in it), put it over her, and closed the box again. This time she was securely inside.
In the front seat beside me, Luci bumped and sniffed and scratched around. I drove with one hand inside the box, singing and talking to her the whole way to my friend’s house. (She went so quiet that when I stopped at a red light I opened the box to make sure she was still breathing. She was fine.)
As well as Luci behaved, it’s a safe bet she didn’t like being closed up in the cardboard box. She may have tried to climb and scratch her way to freedom, but there was no way she was getting out until we’d arrived at my friend’s house and I took her out into a safe environment.
That’s how it is when we’re in a box–I mean trial. We may pray and beg and try all we can to get out, but we won’t be free until God says so.
Until then, we wait. We stop fighting, settle down, and make the most of the journey, just like Luci. God’s hand is always with us, reminding us of His presence (Ps 139:5), and His voice is speaking and singing over us, reassuring us of His love (Zeph 3:17).
First, He brought me here, it is by His will that I am in this strait place: in that fact I will rest.Andrew Murray, quoted in The Red Sea Rules by Robert J. Morgan
Next, He will keep me here in His love, and give me grace to behave as His child.
Then, He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me the lessons He intends me to learn, and working in me the grace He means to bestow.
Last, in His good time He can bring me out again–how and when He knows.
Let me say I am here,
(1) By God’s appointment,
(2) In His keeping,
(3) Under His training,
(4) For His time.
Can you accept God’s perfect plan and perfect timing for your valley? Have you surrendered to His sovereignty? How are you waiting on Him right now?
Nelson’s NKJV Study Bible. Nelson, 1997.
Wiersbe, Warren W. The Bible Exposition Commentary: Prophets. Victor, 2002.