This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3: 21-23)
While faith is certainly ‘the substance of things hoped for,’ and therefore technically looks forward to the future, the exercise of faith is solidly grounded in the past, and this is where we so often go wrong. When things get tough, it’s a common human failing to look back on all the things that have ‘gone wrong,’ rather than all the things that ‘went right.’
Human nature, no doubt the result of the fall and the fleshly influence, tends to lean towards the negative far quicker than we do towards the positive. Our minds, for some reason, seem determined to undermine our faith with all kinds of justification, usually focused on the bad rather than the good. It’s astonishing how quickly we are able to recall the negative, and how hard we need to work to recall the positive.
To put this, and today’s verse in perspective, let’s look at Genesis 1: 5. Here we find a interesting analogy. A day, in God’s eyes, consists of both day and night – light and darkness. This is a principle we find throughout the Bible, and also manifest in the very nature of God Himself. He is a God of total balance, and His creation mirrors that. But, more important, we can expect that there will be both darkness and light in our lives. In other words, it isn’t going to be ‘all sunshine and light,’ and we’d best accustom ourselves tot that reality.
Of course, it doesn’t mean that we spend every moment in the light worrying about the fact that darkness may be around the corner. But it does mean that our time in the light should prepare us to deal with the darkness, if and when it comes. The way we do this is to build our faith so that we have a foundation of truth to take us through. So what, then, can we have faith for?
Most obvious is the reminder that, just as darkness comes, so does the dawn. Day must always follow night. That is the pattern God Himself has ordained. When we find ourselves in a time of darkness, faith reminds us that light is on its way. Of course, the mind will remind us of all the times of darkness that have gone before, and which will no doubt appear in the future. But faith says, the dawn will come. This is the point where we need to remind our minds of the real truth and focus on the dawn rather than the night.
That is the essence of today’s verse. It’s about making a spiritual attitude adjustment. Which doesn’t involve denying the reality. Faith is faith because it’s bigger than reality. To deny the way things are is sheer foolishness and not faith at all. Faith says: ‘It’s really dark right now. That’s a physical/mental/emotional fact. But the dawn is coming, because God said it would.’
Faith doesn’t diminish the reality of suffering. It looks past it to the nature and promises of God. It looks to the truth of who He is, and to His eternal will and purpose. And it looks to His mercy and His faithfulness. It acknowledges that the time of darkness is real, but recognises the assurance that it will not consume us because God is faithful. His Word is eternal, His promises utterly dependable.
God has provided all that we need to bring us through these difficult moments. During the times of green pastures and still waters, we should look to studying the Word, learning His ways and His promises, building our faith for the moments when we need it most. But we should also remember that faith itself is a gift from God. Faith is grace in action. We cannot manufacture or create it, but we can willingly and joyfully receive it. The way we do this is to take ownership of our fleshly nature – that nature that seeks to reinforce the wrong thoughts that constantly work to undermine our faith.
First and foremost, in this regard, faith is a matter of choice – a simple act of obedience. It comes down to reminding ourselves, deliberately and consciously of the mercies and faithfulness of God when the voice of despondency is pounding at the door. This is what it means to ‘take every thought captive to the obedience of the mind of Christ.’ Sometimes, faith starts with a conscious and deliberate act of obedience – quell the thoughts that amount to unbelief and make ourselves remember the Truth of the Word.
When we do this, we find that God will respond and release the faith we need to make it through to the dawn. Our minds are our own, and we need to control them rather than allowing them to control us. The same is true with our emotions – not to deny the reality of how we’re feeling, or even perhaps that we may have any number of good reasons for feeling that way, but rather to submit the feelings to the reality that is God.
In Him, there is always hope, but it’s one based on faith and the reality of who and what He is, what He says and what He has already done. It is the assurance that all things work to the good of those who love Him. It is the certainty that, just as He created and sustains the universe in perfect balance, so He is able to bring us through to the light. There is no darkness deep enough to separate us from Him, and that is the foundation of our faith.
The greatest gift is the knowledge that it’s really not up to us. Yes, we need to take control of the things in us that defeat God’s purposes and raise themselves up against the knowledge of God. But everything else is in His hands – hands which are merciful, faithful and eternal, just as He is. Our part is to receive and to act in faith, and He will do the rest.