Here is the simple outline of my message on Lamentations 3… “What to Do When Life Hurts.” A number of people have asked for the outline. I hope it nudges you closer to Jesus if you are going through any heartache.
God Bless You;
It is tempting to think that happy, productive, emotionally healthy, spiritually strong people were people who have had lives free of pain. But that cannot be true because no one gets through life without pain. Some of God’s choicest servants have been baptized deeply in suffering. For an examples read the writings of Corrie TenBoom or Joni Erickson Tada.
1. Life is Hard. You will never get through life without hurts. (3:1-20)
As wonderful as life can be, none of us will ever get through life without pain. This by be physical or emotional. We will have pain. It may include marital difficulties, misunderstanding, illness or injury, family hurts, wayward or rebellious children, betrayal or abandonment by friends, financial pressures. The variety of possible hurts is virtually endless.
I once heard a man say that for every situation you face in life there is an analogous situation in the Scriptures in the extreme for your instruction and comfort.
I was once preaching to a group of young people who were in a great deal of pain from emotional, physical and even sexual abuse. I wondered where in the Bible to look for an analogous situation. The Spirit directed be toward this passage. The prophet here is describing the defilement of the Holy City.
What do you do when your life is in ruins?
2. When Life is Hard Do not Forget that God is Faithful. (3:21-27)
There is a Golden Retriever who lives on Sandusky Street in Mt. Vernon, Ohio. I don’t know what name he uses now, but I do know what he used to go by. He used to be called “Captain Hook” You may wonder how he got that name.
We were gone all day fishing with a friend on Lake Erie one day and we got home exhausted and a little dizzy and eager to tuck ourselves into bed for the evening. Lois had other plans. She was beside herself because one of our little adorable Golden puppies has been rooting around the spring house and somehow he had managed to knock the fishing poles down and get a sharp fishing hook securely stuck in his mouth.
Now this hook was buried. I couldn’t cut it off and push it through and I couldn’t get it out. I tried for an hour and a half and the whole household was upset with me for hurting this poor whimpering, squealing, yapping, lurching, squirming puppy who was hooked better than any bass I have ever seen.
Lois wanted to call a Vet but I was determined to free our little friend on the budget plan. Finally, in desperation, I settled on an idea. I enlisted Kyle’s help. I said; “Kyle that dog is going to squirm and maybe even try to bite but I want you to hang on for all your worth. That hook is coming out. Kyle settled in with a death-grip on that poor little creature and I got a death grip on my pliers.
With all the strength I could muster I gave one violent yank on the hook. The little dog lunged and scratched Kyle’s face, but he hung on and the hook finally came free. Within ninety seconds the dog was down and scampering contentedly around the kitchen. In another ninety seconds he was gulping down dog chow.
The house settled down to quiet again and I got myself a nice hot bowl of split pea soup and while I ate it occurred to me that little dog had no idea that the pain I inflicted on him came from a mind wiser than his and a heart of love.
You may not understand the pain and pressure you are going through, but I can tell you this; “Count it all joy when the pressure is on” because it comes from a mind far wiser than your own and a heart of love. And maybe that will help you be thankful for something that you are really not sure is a blessing.
The fact is that life is hard and it is especially when life is hard that we need to be reminded that God is wise and good and faithful. When we remind ourselves of the unfailing character of God then our hurts will not drive us away from God.
3. Let Your Hurts Push you Towards God, not Away from Him. (3:28-33)
A few years ago I took Wesley to the dentist. The dentist was a neighbor, a friend, a fine man and a real pro. Wes was about five at the time and he looked exactly like I did at the same age.
Here’s an idea for entertainment when you get tired of the muzak in the dentist office or when you weary of paging through the old magazines. Take note of the euphemisms a dentist uses for the unspeakable horrors he is about to perpetrate on the innocent children who are lured into his chambers.
A dentist never says, “I’m going to strap you down now, crush your tooth and rip it out by the roots.” What he says sounds something like this. “Hi, there, little buddy. Hop up here in the chair and we are going to tug on that tooth a little and help it out of there.” He says it all happy like he is planning a trip to Disneyland.
The dentist gave Wes a series of instructions that I was quite sure he would not be able to remember. “Here is what we are going to do. We are going to give you something to keep it from hurting too bad. You will feel a little pinch at first then maybe some pressure. You shouldn’t feel pain though, just a little pressure. If you do feel pain you won’t be able to say anything because we will have some things in your mouth, so if you do feel pain you don’t have to say anything, just raise your hand. Do you understand?” The dentist took his right hand and raised it up. “Like this, OK?”
Wes looked up at the dentist with big trusting eyes and nodded. Then we plunged into conversation while he and his assistants worked on Wes. He worked and we talked for ten or fifteen minutes and Wes lay patiently in the chair. I admired the dentist for his ability to carry on a lively conversation while at the same time doing such complicated and important work. Well into our lively conversation I noticed movement. Little Wes lying perfectly still on the table was lifting his little and in the air. I had forgotten the dentist’s instruction about what to do if he felt pain, but Wes remembered. His hand was up and my heart went out to him. The dentist noticed it, but I reminded him to make sure. “Uh, Doc. Look his hand is up. He raised his hand. He is feeling pain. It hurts,” I said.
“I see that. We’ve got it,” he calmly assured me. A picture of my little blonde Wes lying still on that table with his little hand in the air is forever fixed in my mind. I know I can’t always shelter Wes from pain in this life, but when I can I want to be there when his little hand goes up to do what I can.
Our Heavenly Father never promised us a life without pain, or cavities for that matter, but He has faithfully instructed us about what to do when life hurts. When life hurts the Father notices and cares. Don’t ever doubt it, just lift your hand and the heart of the Father will leap up and He will see your pain and come to your aid.
Why would a Father let someone hurt his son? For the answer to this great mystery of life we have to look to Calvary. (Romans 5:8; 8:32).
When you read the life of Joseph you see a great deal of suffering and hurt in his life. Much of it was unjust but toward the end of his life he clearly expressed his confidence that God had arranged all the circumstances of his life for his good including the pain. (Genesis 45:5; 50:19-21).
Here are three practical steps to take to move toward the Lord during a time of hurt instead of away.
? Repent of any sin. (3:40ff) “turn back…”
? Cry out to God. (3:41; 55-56)
? Wait on the Lord. (3:25-26; 5:19) (Psalm 40:1-3).
The question is not: “Will hurt come into my life?” The question is; “When hurt comes into my life will it make me closer to God or drive me from Him?”