December is supposed to be a season of hope. However, many find hope hard to find. How can we find hope?
In the Bible there is a book called Lamentations and it is full of what the title suggests – laments. It is a sad book, filled with dirges and poems of sorrow. It was composed by the prophet Jeremiah after the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylonians. He wrote it to process his feelings and his own dispair. But, right in the middle of lamenting, Jeremiah finds hope.
In Lamentations 3:19-21 Jeremiah writes, “Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope.”
What is he remembering? Affliction, wandering, wormwood, and gall. Wormwood was a green shrub known in the ancient world for its medicinal power to treat inflamation. The juice inside a wormwood shrub is one of the most bitter substances in all the world. Gal was the bitter juice that came from poppy, another ancient medicine. Wormwood and gall would be like taking castor oil in our day. Wormwood and gal are often used in the Bible to describe the taste of bitter experiences.
That’s what Jeremiah is remembering – bitter experiences. He had a bunch as a prophet. He studied and preached his entire career but no one listened. One time, he wrote all of his words in a scroll, like writing a book, and the king took his only copy and threw it in the fire. He had been the subject of mistreatment.
Bitterness destroys our hope. Bitterness is found in a victim’s mentality. “I’m here today because of what so and so did to me.” “If only he…” “If only she…” “If only that pastor…” “If only that church…” Sometimes it’s, “If only God…” Victim’s are bitter and hopeless.
Hebrews 12:15 says, “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.”
Notice that a shift takes place in Jeremiah’s thinking. After talking about the wormwood and the gal he says, “… but this I call to mind.” Not God. Not someone else. He makes the decision to call something else to mind. The result? “Therefore I have hope!”
What does Jeremiah choose to call to mind? Notice Lamentations 3:22-24, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”
My question, what are you calling to mind? The wormwood and gal of bitter experiences? The choice is yours. One of the great things we can choose to call to mind are the promises of God. God’s word is full of rich promises, and our God is always faithful to come through. No person can prevent God’s purposes and promises from being fulfilled. God’s promises are like anchor for our soul that gives us great hope. When our emotions blow, feelings rage, situations rise up against us we can have a firm anchor that gives us hope wherever we are.
Hebrews 6:19 says, “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain.”