Maybe you are in that season. Maybe the season has turned into a decade. You’ve forgotten what happiness feels like.
No one understands how you feel better than Jeremiah. If you want to know a little bit more about who he is, read my post “When You’ve Forgotten What Happiness Is” and you can get the tea on how Jeremiah can legit empathize with depression and hopelessness.
Jeremiah has a pretty amazing story, which landed him smack-dab in the middle of an absolutely hopeless situation. Jeremiah’s thinking had sunk him into a terrible depression, fueled by dark thoughts.
In his book, Lamentations, Jeremiah shares intimate details of his thought-life during a horrific and devastating time for him personally, as well as nationally. The reason his story is so amazing, however, is that Jeremiah went from a place of complete hopelessness and depression, to a place of quiet hope and determined purpose. He didn’t throw in the towel. He endured.
But his circumstances didn’t change, only his thinking did. And that change of thinking brought him from a place of depression to a place of hope.
So, what gave Jeremiah hope? What did he switch his thinking from and what did he change his thinking to?
In his book, he describes six things he chose to remember when he had forgotten what happiness was.
I beg you to choose these same thoughts for yourself. I promise you, though they may not change your circumstances, they will change your perspective. These truths will change your life from one paralyzed by depression to one thriving with hope and one able to give hope to others.
1. God is keeping me alive for a purpose.
Every breath is from God. He is the one who is responsible for giving it to us and He has the power to take it away. As long as He gives us breath, He has a reason for it. He has a purpose for keeping us alive.
That purpose is general for all living things, but each and every living thing fulfills a specific intended purpose as well. And it may not even have anything to do with us. Maybe it has to do with someone else’s eternal destiny. Only God knows. We must trust Him and choose to fulfill our purpose.
What does that look like?
Sometimes it just means putting one foot in front of the other. Doing the next thing. Honestly, what you do isn’t as important as how you do it.
…whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.1 Corinthians 10:31
For me, this looks like intentionally replacing my complaining and negative comments with praise and thanks to God. Yup, it’s not my natural tendency. But it is my purpose. It is my purpose to praise and thank Him.
It is my purpose to enjoy God and the blessings He has given me, instead of seeing what is wrong in a room, criticizing what needs to “be fixed” or bemoaning all that is wrong in this life. He invites me to enjoy Him and all the wonderful things He has given me.
…and I have a lot more blessings than Jeremiah did. Literally, the only blessing Jeremiah had was the presence of God. But in the middle of his endless suffering, Jeremiah truly chose to enjoy God’s presence.
He realized that…
2. Clinging to God is more satisfying than clinging to anything else I think might make me happy.
If Jeremiah’s hope was tied to his home, his family, his health, or his physical and emotional needs being met, he was destined to stay in a state of horrible depression. He couldn’t control those things. He couldn’t make it happen. Most would describe Jeremiah as being a victim of his circumstances. And as long as Jeremiah continued to believe himself to be a victim, he would stay in a depression. He chose to believe something different. He chose to believe that he was not a victim, he was an instrument. God had placed him there. God had placed him in the middle of that desolate city. He had nothing. Not, ultimately, because of war or famine, but because God wanted him to have nothing in that moment.
Nothing except Him.
Jeremiah, when everything had been stripped away from him, came to the point of realizing, remembering, and clinging to what he did have – the presence of God. And with the presence of God in his life, he could fulfill the purpose of God. And nobody could take that away. They could take away food, they could take away peace, they could take away shelter, they could take away health and wellness… but they couldn’t strip away the presence of God. They couldn’t take away who God is, what He has done, and what He will do.
And Jeremiah clung to that. That became his hope. God became his ultimate and only hope: Who God was and what God would do.
3. If I wait for God, He won’t let me down.
Jeremiah knew that God saw him, heard him, and would eventually avenge him. Jeremiah believed that God would rescue him in some way. And Jeremiah knew the desolation he was experiencing now would not last forever.
But, instead of taking matters into his own hands, Jeremiah knew he must trust and wait on God’s perfect timing. He trusted God would deliver, but he completely trusted the Lord to choose when and how the deliverance from his suffering would take place.
The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. It is good to wait quietly for deliverance from the LORD.Lamentations 3:25-26
In the meantime… Jeremiah, in my rough paraphrase, said…
4. I choose to live whatever life God allows me to have for Him (it’s not about me).
Jeremiah realized his life was not his to keep, nor his to take. His life was not his own, he had been bought with a price and purchased with a purpose.
God could do to Jeremiah whatever He wanted to do, and God would be just.
Why the horror? Why the cannibalism? Why the rape? Why the homelessness? Why the hunger?
Sin. Sinful people. A sinful world, broken and in need of desperate fixing. A “fixing” that only God can and will fix. And he chooses to use us – in the middle of the mess, to remind the rest of the world, that He is the One who fixes broken things. He makes all things new. And while I might be in the middle of the mess with the rest of the broken world, while I still have breath, and while Jeremiah still had breath, God can still use us.
5. While my quality of life may be poor, God can enable me to “suffer well” and still use me to encourage others and point them to Him.
I’m so glad Jeremiah didn’t throw in the towel. I’m so thankful he was honest, transparent, and shared his suffering with me and with you. He shows us the path to hope and purpose, so that our prayers change from “Please take this suffering away” to “Show me how to suffer well and point others to you in the process.”
Friend, you are doing that. You are encouraging others by suffering well. He’s still using us, as broken and as useless as we may feel, to point others – though the hand may be dirty and emaciated – to him.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.James 1:2-4 (NIV)
6. Instead of focusing on what God isn’t doing in the moment, I will choose to enjoy what He has done and will do.
Have you ever observed someone “suffer well” ? It is like a breath of fresh air. It gives those of us watching, courage and endurance. It helps us find perspective. Sometimes, we shake our heads in disbelief. We can’t explain or fathom how they can praise God or proclaim the goodness of God in the midst of their terrible pain.
For the Lord will not reject us forever. Even if He causes suffering, He will show compassion according to His abundant, faithful love.Lamentations 3:31-32
But remember, that person who seems so strong in their faith? The one who cannot stop speaking of God’s faithfulness, love, compassion, and mercy? We may be unaware of their journey to joy. We may have missed the bitter tears they cried out to their heavenly Father in the worst of their pain. We may never read in their prayer journals where they have confessed that they wished they were dead. We may never become privy to the pain they have encountered on the journey God put them on to get them to this point of true joy.
But we do have access to Jeremiah’s journey.
Read it. You will find him a dear friend in the end.
Jeremiah shows us, through the book named after him, Jeremiah, as well as Lamentations, that God is able. He is able, through the power of His Holy Spirit, to transform our depression to hope-filled thinking and living even when we are so low that we have forgotten what happiness is.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.Romans 12:1-2
Suggested Reading: Lamentations 1:1-3:36