April 5, 2022 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Lamentations 3:19-23 (NRSV)
The thought of my affliction and my homelessness
is wormwood and gall!
My soul continually thinks of it
and is bowed down within me.
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.
One of the most beloved passages of Scripture proclaims, “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 3:22-23). Because these verses appear in the midst of a chapter full of sorrow and lamentation, we are reminded that God is faithful even when it doesn’t feel that way. God’s love for us is steadfast even in times of loss and sorrow.
Today’s devotion is part of the series Lamentations in Lent.
Lamentations 3:22-23 has inspired many songs and hymns. For example, one of the earliest and most popular praise songs was based on this text: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end . . . .” Similarly, the classic hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness” puts into poetry the assurances of Lamentations 3:22-23. The refrain of this hymn proclaims: “Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see; All I have needed Thy hand hath provided – Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!”
“Great is Thy Faithfulness” is my favorite hymn. I’ve loved it since I was in my twenties. I’ve sung it in some of the happiest and hardest occasions of my life. I sang this hymn with rejoicing in my wedding and my ordination service. I sang this hymn with mixed feelings of sorrow and joy in the memorial services for my father and my mother.
My father died at a relatively young age (54) after suffering terribly with liver cancer. My family and I watched in horror as he wasted away. It was excruciating, one of the hardest things I’ve ever experienced. There were many times when I questioned God’s faithfulness. God certainly didn’t feel faithful in those moments. God’s mercies weren’t new every morning, but far, far away.
Yet, even in the midst of my dad’s suffering and my family’s sorrow, there were times when God let us know that he was still with us, still loving us, still faithful. Sometimes this reassurance would come in moments of quiet, solitary prayer. Sometimes it would come through the love of a sister or brother in Christ. For example, I have a good friend who is pretty stoic when it comes to expressing emotions. One day he reached out to me, asking, “Mark, how are you doing with what’s happening to your father?” I could feel his tender heart, even if his expression was relatively guarded. I told him how things were going, how hard they were. As he listened, I could see tears in his eyes. “I am so, so sorry,” he said, before giving me an awkward hug. Through the kindness of this friend, I could feel God’s presence and compassion. For a moment, I could even believe that God’s faithfulness was indeed great.
Ironically, when we sing songs like “The Steadfast Love of the Lord” and “Great is Thy Faithfulness” in the midst of loss and grief, we are in a similar position to the writer of Lamentations. He and his people had suffered and were suffering horribly. At one point, the writer had lost his hope in God. He wrote, “Gone is my glory, and all that I had hoped for from the LORD” (Lamentations 3:18). Yet, as he remembered the Lord, he found the ability to celebrate God’s love and compassion in some of the most prized words in all of Scripture.
Thus, Lamentations 3:22-23, when read in context, inspires us to confess God’s faithfulness, not only in times of blessing and joy, but also in times of pain and sorrow. Like the writer of Lamentations, in the midst of our struggle we call to mind who God is and how much God cares for us. This gives us hope even in the midst of what feels like hopelessness.
Do you have any favorite worship songs or hymns? If so, what songs or hymns? Why are they your favorites?
Have you ever experienced anything like the writer of Lamentations 3?
What enables you to keep on trusting in God’s faithful love when your life is stung by suffering?
Take some time to ponder the lyrics of “Great is Thy Faithfulness.”
Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father,
there is no shadow of turning with thee.
Thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not;
as thou hast been, thou forever wilt be.
Great is thy faithfulness!
Great is thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
all I have needed thy hand hath provided.
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!
Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
sun, moon, and stars in their courses above
join with all nature in manifold witness
to thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love. [Refrain]
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide,
strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside! [Refrain]
Gracious God, how I thank you for the times you have sustained me when I’ve been dragged down by despair. Thank you for continuing to love me when I turned my back on you in anger. Thank you for your patience, your mercy, your kindness.
I pray for all who are struggling to trust you today. Let them know of your love and grace. Reassure them by your presence. Comfort them in their agony and doubt. Even in their pain, help them to know that your faithfulness is great. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Discovering the Power of Singing to God
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.
I’ve had a doozy of a past two years: a divorce not of my choosing after 35 years of marriage, the selling of a beloved home, the care of my elderly parents who have Alzheimer’s and dementia, the death of two uncles, an aunt, a brother-in-law, and my father in the past 15 months, living in an apartment for the first time, needing to stay in one of the most expensive places to live in the US because my mother insists on staying and my siblings have already left the state, and I don’t want her to be alone after the recent death of my dad, the support of three grown kids, only one of which is able to work (he has autism, the other two have physical disabilities in addition to being on the autism spectrum, etc. It’s been a lot — and this is only the top layer.
My Anglican faith has kept me sane and devoted to God. When I came to today’s devotion after 11 PM tonight because of visiting my mom, grocery shopping, and picking up my 22-year-old car from the shop, I needed a good dose of “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” And then I turned to my Prayers for Springtime volume of Phyllis Tickle’s Divine Hours devotional, and guess what was included in tonight’s Vespers devotion: the lyrics to “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”! I think God is reminding me that no matter how crazy and disappointing life is right now, He is guiding, directing, and protecting us.
I needed to read these lyrics today, especially after driving all over San Diego County in 90+-degree heat … with the air conditioner *still* not working. Back to the shop tomorrow after I take two of my kids to very different doctors’ visits in different corners of the county! But at least the car is running which is a major improvement! 😉
Thanks, Mark, for your part in posting your “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” story and for being part of mine!
Soli Deo Gloria,