Paul, my Dad, knew adversity. As a youngster, he faced down the real great depression (the 1930’s). As a young man, he served in the 81st Infantry as they joined in the terrible battles of the Palau Islands and Leyte. As a young husband and father, his days as a combat medic were not over… he was reactivated for the Korean War. Again he was called up in 1960 for the Berlin Crisis. After a year of blessed non-deployment he was allowed separation. With four children ranging from 5 to 13 he and Mom said, “Enough,” and back to South Dakota we went. However, the siren call still beckoned…back they went. In 1966, Dad obeyed one final time as Uncle Sam sent him to Viet Nam with the 1st Cav. In 1978, he hung up his helmet and boots for the last time. Dad knew adversity. During the months of March through July 5 of this year he fought yet another battle. One he could not win. He failed to thrive. He went home to Jesus. It wasn’t pretty. Through it all another battle raged…inside. It was his. It was internal. He struggled to see the hand of God’s love. Yes, he bowed before the King of kings. Jesus was his Savior, but it was an uneasy truce.
Jeremiah also knew adversity. Oh man, he knew it well. You might be unfamiliar with his life. If so, consider reading two books in the Bible: Jeremiah and Lamentations. Needless to say he had much to say about a hard subject during a hard time.
I have poured his words into my heart. Hurtful words. Sad words. Hard words. Yet words dripping with hope. They are in fact the Lord’s words…and I need them. Dad needed them.
I need them for multiple reasons, but mostly because I want joy and laughter to increase and sorrow and tears to decrease. Don’t we all.
Just this morning adversity came knocking again. I’ll spare you the details. No more had it made an attempt to camp out in my soul…when God’s word through Jeremiah flooded my spirit…
“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).
I’ll leave it to you to discover just how miserable Jeremiah had become through no fault of his own. Read Lamentations. It’s short. It won’t take long, but hang on. It’s a difficult journey. Pay very close attention when you get to 3:16-18. Jeremiah could not have been lower. His hope in the Lord was gone. It’s as though he shook his fist toward the sky and shouted, “God I’m through with you!” Dad did this too.
The Lord’s word through Jeremiah ringing as a reminder in my mind was the Spirit of God whispering yet again to my spirit, my inner true self. What was true for Jeremiah is true for every believer in Jesus Christ. God’s love never fails. His mercy never ends. His love and mercy are new every day, because he is faithful. He doesn’t change. However, more than that, his presence is always with us. The word of God, tucked away in my heart, cascading like a river of fresh cool water over my troubled thoughts was God’s way of showing in real time that he is here…always, ever, in joy and in sorrow.
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.
So keep fronting me, Adversity. Keep stepping in where you do not belong. You will continue to be escorted right out the back door. And that rushing wind you feel and hear pushing you away? It’s name is Pneuma…Spirit… the Holy Spirit…the One who leads and guides and reminds…the One who illuminates our minds with the eternal word of God…the One who testifies with my spirit that I am a child of God. The One who, finally, helped Dad see just how greatly he was and is loved.
My heart both broke and soared on July 5th. It hurt knowing in this life Dad never won the love battle. He simply could not see what Jeremiah knew…“the steadfast love of the LORD never ceases.” It soared knowing in heaven the war finally ended…his hope was no longer dashed. He doesn’t even need hope, because he knows face to face, heart to heart, from the eyes and lips of Jesus, “(my) mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning.”
How about you? What does your battle look like? When adversity comes calling, what do you do?