For no one is cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone. (Lamentations 3:31-33 NIV)
I didn’t know my friend from high school was dying. We hadn’t seen each other in years, but when our paths crossed in the dental office, we time-warped right back to our teenage years. Lena had bought me my first Chick-fil-A sandwich. And my first Helen Reddy album. Twenty-five years later, I can still sing the lyrics to the title song “I Am Woman.” We’d attended church together, taken bus rides all over the city, and shared our dreams. I hoped to write the Great American Novel. She wanted to travel the country in a VW bus.
Although we lived in the same town, we drifted apart when Lena went to work and I went to college. Mutual friends would mention her occasionally, and the reports weren’t good.
“She’s partying a lot,” one friend said.
“I see her with a different guy every time,” another commented. “She’s changed. You wouldn’t recognize her.”
They were right. The woman I bumped into in the dental office bore little resemblance to my high school friend. She sported bright pink hair. Her normally chubby cheeks were sunken, stretched tightly against her prominent cheekbones. “You look great,” I lied, hugging her gently, afraid if I squeezed too hard she might break.
As we talked, our conversation turned to spiritual things.
“I’ve been wanting to study the Bible again,” Lena said, “but I don’t know where to start.”
“Why don’t we study together?” I said. She agreed, and we decided to meet every Tuesday night to study the book of 1 Peter.
On the first night of our study, she told me she was dying.
Her lifestyle had resulted in a fatal disease. “I felt okay at first,” she said, “but I’ve been getting sicker. Doctors have tried several different treatments, but nothing seems to help.”
When the conversation turned to spiritual things, as it often does when someone knows they’re dying, I asked the question weighing heavily on my heart.
“Lena, do you know for sure, if you were to die, that you’d go to heaven?”
“Yes,” she said softly, raising tear-filled eyes to meet mine. “When I was first diagnosed, I was angry at God. I knew He could have prevented me from getting sick. But then I realized that if I hadn’t gotten sick, I would have continued in my lifestyle, moving farther and farther away from Him. It sounds crazy, but my illness has actually been a blessing. It brought me back to God.”
Lamentations 3:33 shows us God’s compassionate heart for His wayward children when Jeremiah writes, “For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone.” This heart-wrenching statement reminds us that although God often allows the natural consequences of our sin to impact our lives, He doesn’t delight in it.
“Though he brings grief,” Lamentations 3:32 says, “he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love.”
Lena lived six more months after we reconnected. We laughed, cried, and studied God’s Word together. Her body weakened, but her spirit grew stronger. Her confidence in God’s greater purpose for her illness never wavered, nor did her trust in God’s tender heart toward her. She knew that although her body would one day die, her spirit would live forever. And an eternity with God is infinitely better than a lifetime without Him.
God never celebrates when the results of our disobedience wreak havoc on our lives. Instead, He weeps with us.
Have you ever struggled with events or circumstances in your or someone else’s life that came about because of disobedience? Maybe this war is raging in your spirit right now. It’s time to stop fighting. Talk to God, right now. Confess and repent of any sin that is hindering your relationship with Him. Tell Him about your hurt, pain, fear, disappointment. Be honest. He knows anyway. Then take up the shield of faith. Say to Him, “No matter what happens, I will trust that you will use what you’ve allowed into my life for my good and your glory. Give me the faith and courage to walk the path you have set before me.”
Read Lamentations 3:24-40
Taken from Refresh Your Faith: Uncommon Devotions from Every Book of the Bible by Lori Hatcher © 2020. Used by permission of Our Daily Bread Publishing®, Box 3566, Grand Rapids, MI 49501. All rights reserved. Further distribution is prohibited without written permission from Our Daily Bread Publishing® at email@example.com.
Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Zondervan.com