Sin is a deceiving snake. It slyly slithers around our hearts waiting for its moment to strike. Often times, we don’t even realize the multitude of ways we sin every day. We are deceived by its craftiness to mask itself as good things or unaware of its ability to remain hidden. Yet, we also recognize those moments where the sin in our hearts expresses itself with such audacity, we fall to our face in sheer terror. The sinfulness that wraps its deadly coils so tightly around our heart is exposed and its venom runs deep. When we are starkly made aware of the gravity of our sin against a holy God, we can plummet into the darkest of despairs. And not only that but the consequences of our sin carry the most painful afflictions. As such, we can be so consumed with its foulness that we become wholly melancholic. In Lamentations 3, Jeremiah gives an account of the affects of the severity of sin’s afflictions in his own life. Some of us may have experienced afflictions to this degree. Others’ experiences may not be as severe. But his lament over his sin gives us hope and helps us to see how our affliction from sin is a great grace.
Here are 3 reasons affliction demonstrates God’s grace.
1) Affliction Is Given From God
The first 18 verses of Lamentations 3 reveal to us that every aspect of Jeremiah’s affliction and sorrow was ordained by the very hands of God. Now this might not seem promising and certainly not akin to an act of grace. But we forget that it is not where God leads us that determines what is best for us. Rather it is the truth that He is sovereign in it. Had the affliction been brought upon Jeremiah by the sole authority of men or by his own power, what desperation would prevail! Yet, verse 1 tells us that “I am the man that has seen the affliction by the rod of his wrath. He hath led me, and brought me into darkness, but not into light.” It is God who leads Jeremiah. And where God leads, He is there in the midst. More so, we know that God works all things together for our good. That includes our afflictions and sorrows and consequences from sin. Likewise, as followers of Christ we too can trust in the sovereignty of God in our afflictions. We may feel trapped, shut out from the Lord, and mocked by others. We may feel we could be devoured at any moment or pierced by the King’s arrows or that nothing will be good again (vv. 6-13). As a father disciplines his child, so the Lord may chastise us (Hebrews 12:6). Nevertheless, he does so because He loves us. Remember dear reader, every affliction is coming from the hands of a Father who loves you and died for you. So trust in His sovereign reign.
2) Affliction Reveals His Mercy
When we come to verses 18-23, we see a change take place in Jeremiah’s lament. He recognizes that all of the afflictions brought upon by the Lord, as severe as they were, have humbled him and opened his eyes to God’s mercy. The Holy of Holies has every right to utterly consume us in our sin. The filthiness of our sin deserves the full punishment of the law. BUT- Jeremiah testifies that it is because of the Lord’s mercies that we are not utterly consumed! God is compassionate and long suffering, not wanting any to perish but that all might come to repentance. Had it not been for the afflictions Jeremiah experienced, his heart might still be proud and unaware of the gravity of His sin. The affliction therefore, was in itself an act of mercy as was the stayed hand of the Lord to not execute full judgement. We too experience His mercies daily because of Jesus. Had it not been for the only Son of God to take the punishment for our sin, we would be dead in our sins. Furthermore, we can rejoice and praise God for our affliction because it draws us to humbly repent of our sin. The Lord is merciful and gracious and compassionately waits for us to turn from sin.
3) Affliction Brings Hope
Finally, as we come to the end of the chapter we find that even in affliction there is great hope. Because Jeremiah had not been consumed by his afflictions and because God is compassionate and full of mercy, he has hope. Charles Spurgeon said it this way, “The Lord has chastened us, but He has not crushed us. We have been cast down, but not destroyed. ‘Great is Thy faithfulness.’ No man can say so truly as the one who has known what it is to prove that great faithfulness in great affliction.” The Lord’s great faithfulness has been Jeremiah’s hope. God has been faithful and even though he has suffered and lost, the Lord has never left him. The Lord is his portion- his God is all he needs and could want. Therefore, Jeremiah hopes in Him. Despite the continued presence of his afflictions, Jeremiah waits for the Lord and testifies that though God may discipline, He will never abandon. Nor will His afflictions last forever. There will be deliverance and mercy upon mercy upon mercy. All is grace. Similarly, we should place our hope in the Lord. We cling to the promise of Jesus to never leave us and recall that he “gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age” (Galatians 1:4).
And so dear reader, when you face the despair of affliction remember that it is an act of God’s grace. He is sovereign over it, there is mercy in it, and through it we can find hope. One day, those who trust in Jesus will be free of all affliction and rest solely in His great grace.