Take Your Guilt and Sins to God

As we wrap up our four-week series, Redeeming Trauma, we need to pay attention to the first chapter of the book of Lamentations, which guides in how to think about extreme suffering which may be part of God’s faithful discipline. The book of Lamentations is a testimony to the sovereign faithfulness of God in judgment and the enduring mercies of God in the face of extreme suffering.

Lamentations is a gift because it reveals in shocking language that sin does not deliver on its promises. Sin’s pleasure is only for a moment. Charles Swindoll writes, “[Lamentations] is a mute reminder that sin, in spite of all its allurement and excitement, carries with it heavy weights of sorrow, grief, misery, barrenness, and pain. It is the other side of the “eat, drink, and be merry coin.”

Jeremiah’s lament over the destruction of Jerusalem leads us on the painful path to God’s mercy. We, like Jeremiah, live with the temporary consequences of living in a sinful world. How do we deal with sin’s harm in us, among us, and around us? There are times we must see difficult circumstances as God’s discipline or training rather than the dealings of blind fate (Hebrews 12:5–11).

The three weeks we spent in Psalm 22 brought us near to the heart of God. They brought us near to the heart of the suffering Savior, who understands all our suffering—and can heal what hurts and restore what sin ruins. However, my role as a preacher and shepherd also requires me to warn us of the judgment that will come if we refuse to repent.

When we finally get serious about turning away from our sin and following God, the way might be difficult for a long time as the Holy Spirit exposes sin in our hearts. This is the reason we are ending this brief series by looking at the relationship of sin to extreme suffering.

Not All Personal Suffering Is Caused by Personal Sin

Please understand me! I am not saying that all personal suffering results from personal sin. If you’ve been a reader of this blog for any length of time, then you know that is not what I teach because that is not what Scripture teaches. We do not want to be like Job’s friends, who were called miserable counselors because their knee-jerk reaction to suffering was to blame the sufferer (Job 16:2).

However, we also don’t want to swing the pendulum to the other unbiblical extreme, which says, “Because God is loving and gracious and forgiving, he will prevent us from reaping what we have sown.” Extreme suffering can get complicated. Even if we are not the cause of it, we typically complicate it with our sinful response. So, suffering is often a muddy mixture.

Sometimes, God uses the natural consequences of our sin to humble us, and soften our hearts, so that we will be repent—and be restored to joyful obedience and peaceful fellowship with him. God is faithful to discipline those who belong to Him, and merciful to forgive and restore us when we repent.

God is not the source of evil, but Lamentations stresses He is sovereign over it—and will use the evil of men to accomplish His purposes. It is precisely because God is sovereign that his disciplined and grieving people can have hope amid pain and tragic circumstances. As I have stated for the past three weeks, my goal for this series is to shine the light of Scripture on trauma, so that we may discern reality and discover the hope, comfort, and soul-healing found ultimately in Jesus—the suffering Savior.

Therefore, to be a faithful counselor, I must not only help you see the suffering Savior as the one who understands your suffering and is filled with compassion. But I must also help you understand the seriousness of the sin which put Jesus on the cross–my sin, your sin, our sin. I refuse to be like the false shepherds of Jeremiah’s day, who cried, “Peace! Peace!” When there was no peace (Jer. 6:14).

If I only tell you what you want to hear when you are hurting, then I am an unfaithful and unreliable shepherd. You and I are not really helped when the only message we listen to is the one that makes us feel better about ourselves and our situation. When we are enduring extreme suffering, what will help us the most is honest counsel. We don’t need to hear a message that says, “It’s all your fault.” But we also don’t need to hear a message that says, “Nothing is your fault.” This is one of my concerns about the overuse of the word trauma in today’s culture.

My Pastoral Concern about the Overuse of “Trauma” Language

If you have followed this series and listened to the sermons, then you know Scripture is chock full of examples of extreme suffering. Trauma is a real thing. However, what concerns me is that it is becoming a catch-all term for anything in life that is too hard. It’s becoming only about what kinds of hurt come upon us—from the outside—rather than also addressing the extreme suffering that we sometimes bring on ourselves. When this happens, trauma can become an umbrella term under which all sinful responses to life’s hurts become excusable.

However, if we are honest, we know that sometimes our greatest pain comes from dealing with the consequences of unfaithfulness and sin—whether our own or that of someone close to us. And when we find ourselves there––and we will––Lamentations is our handbook.

Here, the Spirit exhorts us to place our hope fully in the faithful mercy and loyal love of a gracious God, to praise and take refuge in Him, no matter what kind of suffering we endure, or the cause.  He alone is sovereign and rules forever. His mercies are new every morning, and His faithfulness is unfathomably great.  No other book of the Bible, except Job, so unabashedly addresses suffering. And, in a unique sense, Lamentations tackles the painful issues related to suffering which comes from being unfaithful to God.

In Lamentations 1, we are called to look and learn.

  1. Look at a portrait of misery (vv. 1-11).

In the first eleven verses, we see the characteristics and cause of Judah’s misery.

  1. Learn from a plea for mercy (vv. 12-22).

God grants mercy to those who are truly repentant. True repentance only takes place when we are thinking rightly about our sin and rightly about our God.

Think rightly about sin.

Before we can properly receive the mercy of God, we must come to three realizations concerning our sin.

  • Sin provokes God’s anger (v. 12).
  • Sin saps your strength (vv. 13-15).
  • Sin brings shame on you and others connected to you (vv. 16-17).

To receive the mercy of God, we not only need to think rightly about our sin. But we also need to think rightly about God.

Think rightly about God.

This includes coming to four conclusions.

  1. God is right to discipline you (v. 18).
  2. God alone satisfies (v. 19).
  3. God sees you in your distress (v. 20).
  4. God will judge all sin (vv. 21-22).

Lamentations 1 is a tough chapter. But Jeremiah’s message leads somewhere. His hard message drives us to the Lord for the mercy we need.

Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness. Surely my soul remembers and is bowed down within me. This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of the Lord.

Lamentations 3:19-26

Listen to this message and the entire Redeeming Trauma series.

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