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)
The typical rule of thumb, at least on this side of the new creation, is that God’s mercies taste the sweetest when they are fewest.
On the days when we hardly have any complaint — school is out, work is done, the sun is shining, the sky is shining, money in the bank, health in the body, food on the table, surrounded by friends and family — when everything seems at its best, and we’re swimming in God’s good gifts, we’re only able to take it all in to a certain degree. At least for now. God’s multiplied mercies typically don’t multiply our gratitude and praise.
But when it seems as though just about everything has gone wrong, it is often then that we find God’s little mercies, precious few though they be, are all the sweeter, richer, and fuller.
New Mercies I See
That was the experience of the prophet Jeremiah as he wept over the destruction of the Jerusalem. This is about as dark and as desperate as it ever gets in the Bible, save Good Friday. The Babylonian army has utterly decimated the holy city, torn open the walls, ransacked and defamed God’s temple, and carried off his people in another tragic wave of exiles. It is the lowest point in all the Old Testament, which is saying a lot, as it feels in the moment as if God’s great centuries-old promises have failed.
The short book of Lamentations captures Jeremiah’s agony and pain at the sight of the holy city in such shame and disrepute. But in the very center of the book, just when you think the prophet has fallen into utter despair, there is this amazing parting of the clouds, as a bright ray of hope shines into the thick darkness.
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. (Lamentations 3:21–23)
It’s not the bright, bright sunshiny day when we most taste the greatness of God’s faithfulness — though he is most certainly faithful in those times. It’s when we’re at our lowest, when things have become their darkest, when apart from him we’re at our most hopeless, when there’s no other good place to stand, these are the times when we most sense the solidness of his faithfulness underneath our feet. In the words of the old hymn, when all around our soul gives way, he then is all our hope and stay.
No Shadow of Turning
We are fickle creatures, living in a world of constant change. Peace and calm today may mean pain and chaos tomorrow. We cower, we compromise, we give into pressure. We ourselves, and those around us, are often the very opposite of faithfulness.
But the Father of Jesus is utterly faithful. As James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” Or, as Thomas Chisholm wrote almost 100 years ago to celebrate God’s faithfulness over the course of his life,
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 has been Thou forever wilt be.
For those of us who are in Christ, the great grounds of God’s faithfulness to us, in our best of times and our worst, is God’s own faithfulness to his Son. No matter how dark the garden of despair, no matter how long the road of pain, no matter how horrible the cross, God “remains faithful — for he cannot deny himself” (2 Timothy 2:13). If we are in Christ, we can be sure of this in our darkest of days: he will not abandon us, but remains utterly faithful to bring us through death to life again.