Some seasons in life taste very much like milk and honey. Times are good and God’s blessings are obvious. Praise comes (or at least ought to come) fairly readily. Yet other seasons savor much more of “wormwood and bitterness” (Lamentations 3:19 NASB) than of the delights of the Promised Land. And, while we know that we ought to press on in hope and joy in such days, we must ask, “How do we actually do so?” Also, “How do we keep the faith in days that are much less honey, and much more wormwood?” In this article, I intend to help you understand three biblical strategies to deal with these seasons of life:
- Remember God’s past blessings.
This was Asaph’s strategy in Psalm 77. Asaph was living in wormwood days. Indeed, he was asking questions like: “Will the Lord reject forever? And will He never be favorable again?” But listen to how he counseled himself to remember: “I shall remember the deeds of the Lord; surely I will remember Your wonders of old” (v.11). And then note how he goes on, in the psalm, to do just that; to remember God’s past goodness! And though he doesn’t say so, surely the effect of these reflections was to restore Asaph’s joy and hope in his God; to remind Him that the God who had shown goodness to His people, would surely do so again!
So let us, too, brothers and sisters, remember God’s past blessings; His “wonders of old.” Let us remember His mighty acts recorded on the pages of the Bible. Let us reflect back, particularly, on the cross and resurrection of Christ. Let us recall how God opened our eyes to faith in this Christ; how He has answered past prayers; how He has delivered us from wormwood trials in our own lives and have our hope and joy restored and maintained even in bitter days!
- Don’t overlook God’s daily blessings
Jeremiah was living in wormwood days, too. In fact, it was he who used that very phrase “wormwood and bitterness.” But notice one of his strategies for perseverance: “This I recall to mind … The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:21-23 NASB). Yes, these were difficult days for Jeremiah. But he resolves to pay attention to God’s daily blessings; to remember that every morning God is showering His goodness upon His people. And in remembering this, he says in v.21, “I have hope.”
So it must also be with us. Let us consider God’s “new every morning” goodness; His daily blessings – the rising of the sun, the falling of the rain, the food in our bellies, the Bible in our hands, the continual forgiveness of our sins, and so on – and we will have reason to rejoice and, with Jeremiah, to hope!
- Look forward to God’s future blessings
The apostle Paul knew a thing or two about suffering, did he not? Just read 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 NASB! Or note that, concerning their mission to Asia, Paul wrote of his missionary team that “we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life” (2 Corinthians 1:8 NASB). But then consider his strategy, in Romans 8, for the wormwood days: “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (v.18). In the midst of life’s difficulties, Paul is looking forward to God’s future blessings! And the upshot of this future focus? Perseverance! “If we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it” (v.25).
Let us learn to persevere in just the same way – remembering that this life is not all there is, and that there is yet great “glory that is to be revealed to us” – and we will have a resource for hope, and joy, and pressing on!
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” And the Lord’s goodness, in all three-time frames, gives us reason to press on, to hope, and to be glad even in our wormwood days!
Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible® (NASB),
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Used by permission. www.Lockman.org