“The Lord is my portion, says my soul, Therefore I have hope in Him. The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him.”
“The only ground of God’s love is his love. The ground of God’s love is only and wholly in himself. There is neither portion nor proportion in us to draw his love. There is no love nor loveliness in us that should cause a beam of his love to shine upon us1”
Imagine yourself sitting in the middle of your town square as one of the only survivors of a massive military invasion upon your town that literally left everything in its wake leveled. This was the context of which Jeremiah was writing the book of Lamentations, yet now add to this context, the reality that you had, by God’s insight, been told that this was exactly what was going to happen. This might, as we say, have added injury upon injury. The picture that Jeremiah paints as he gives us his eyewitness account of the devastation is shrouded in the fact that he had told the people of Jerusalem that this was going to come to pass and now he must shoulder the weight of its fulfillment. Furthermore, the nauseating element added to this picture is not only that the streets are strewn with the limp bodies of his countrymen, but those that have somehow survived the ordeal are riddled with starvation and have begun to eat human flesh. (see 1:11; 2:20; 4:10) Such a picture seems beyond the reach of the majority of the modern western world, even incomprehensible that such desperation in the human spirit could plunge into such horror. To this added affliction, was the great irony that even their God was fighting against them.
So, as you put yourself in Jeremiah’s shoes, the inevitable haunting that would plague your mind are the questions that would rack the soul. Where had it all gone wrong? How did it get to this point? Why has such inconceivable decimation fallen upon this people? It is sometimes not the unanswered questions that are so crippling as it is the torment of knowing exactly why it has all taken place. It is at this point in the walk of faith, that the very foundations are shaken.
For Jeremiah, if he turned his head to the south of the city, the picture was painted with despair and death, the witness of God’s wrath. If he turned to look to the north to find some consolation in the temple, there was only a heap of rubble and the endless string of smoke that rose up as a reminder of God’s justice. To the east was a parade of human captives marching solemnly out of sight and to the west was the filled grandstands of Jerusalem’s enemies cheering on her captors. Yet in the gloom of the moment and the cloud of despair, Jeremiah clung to a single conviction, “The Lord is my portion, says my soul.” This is the grand substance of hope that is rehearsed over and over in the Bible. As F. B. Huey has observed; “The unbroken mood of despair was displaced by a beautiful affirmation of hope in spite of suffering2”
How curiously out of place then becomes this early picture; Jeremiah is surrounded by every possible argument for disparity and consuming depression, yet he is the robust contradiction to it all. The one thing that raises reasoning man above the cruelty of this world’s atrocities is an unshakable anchor in the goodness and mercy of a loving God. The prophet Habakkuk in similar straits said it this way; “Though the fig tree should not blossom; And there be no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive should fail, And the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the foldAnd there be no cattle in the stalls, Yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.” (Hab. 3:17,18) This is where one truly discovers the majesty and glory of God.
Many years ago, I had given this counsel to our sons as they left home and began their own unsupervised walk of faith with the God of the Bible; “You will never truly discover and enjoy God on the placid waters of life.” But if we have made the Lord our portion, the central satisfaction of life, the all-consuming contentment of our soul, then these dark clouds of overwhelming despair and sorrow will be surmountable. They will not be escaped, nor the pain that accompanies them avoided. But if the Lord is my portion; hope shall remain untainted because it is secured in the character of the good God. So, what is our portion in this life? Will it deliver in the darkness of the storm?
The Rev. Ray Druckenmiller is the Pastor at Manning Community Church.