Remember my affliction and my homelessness, the wormwood and the poison. 20 I continually remember them and have become depressed. Yet I call this to mind, and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness! I say: The Lord is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in Him. (Lamentations 3:19–24, HCSB)
These words were written by Jeremiah the prophet. He ministered to the Southern Kingdom of Judah. God called him to preach a hard message to a stubborn people during a difficult time. His message: "Repent, and turn back to God, or suffer the consequences!" Never popular. The people responded by throwing Jeremiah into the city sewer, and then raining rocks down on his head. Somehow he survived and lived to see the day that his prophecy came true. God's judgment came in the form of an invasion. The Babylonians laid siege to Jerusalem. Eventually, the residents of the city became so weak and sick from starvation that the Babylonian soldiers marched uncontested through the gates and slaughtered every living thing in sight. Well, almost everything. Some they left alive. Among them: Jeremiah.
Jeremiah was in a pit--both literally and figuratively. He was depressed (vs. 20). I hear people say that "Christians should never get depressed." I want to say, "Read your Bible!" Look at Jonah, Elijah, Jacob, Joseph, David, etc.--they all spent time in the pit.
From this Scripture I'm going to offer some footholds for climbing out of your pit. But--before starting--I have to say: I detest formulas! Formulas are simple solutions we design to solve complex problems. They don't work. In fact, no thing works. Only people work. Getting out of a pit is hard work. But if you will put biblical principles into practice the Holy Spirit will help you ascend from the pit.
What are those principles?
Change your thinking
Look at verses 91 and 20: "Remember my affliction and my homelessness, the wormwood and the poison. I continually remember them and have become depressed." What do you see? All he could think about was the bad stuff that had happened to him. Why is it that our default mode is to shift to negative thinking? When we dwell on the bad stuff we slip into the pit.
The first step out of the pit of depression is not emotional or physical. It is mental. It is to change your thinking. The original Hebrew in verse 21 is emphatic: "Yet I call this to mind...." Jeremiah made himself remember something other than the bad stuff. What was that? The faithfulness of God.
We have to change our thinking. We have to focus our minds on the good stuff. "And what is that?" We are alive because of God's mercy! God is faithful. He has not abandoned us. He has not given up on us. He still loves us and we still belong to him. He sees something in us that needs adjustment so He allows the test. God still has a plan for you. Focus your mind on the good stuff!
Lift the praise
"Great is Your faithfulness!" (verse 23). Jeremiah began to praise the LORD.
We have not yet begun to awaken the power of praise. Here is a great principle of Scripture: your position is determined by the confession of your lips. Listen: when your praise goes up so do you! When your lips begin to praise, you begin to rise! Your deliverance is connected to your praise. If you want to elevate, celebrate!
"I don't feel like praising God!"
Do it anyway. Faith is not a feeling. Faith is obedience to God in spite of what you feel inside or see around you.
"But what do I praise God for when I'm down in a pit?" How about this: the pit is not your permanent address. God is faithful, and He will bring you out. So you can praise Him for that.
And you can celebrate that He has you in that pit for a reason. That reason may not be clear to you now. It may not ever be clear to you. But God is somehow going to use your pit-experience to refine and purify your character so He can use you more. Remember Romans 8:28: "We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose."
Even in the darkness God is still at work. Jesus cried on the cross, "My God, My God, why have you abandoned Me?" But God had not disappeared in that hour of darkness. Indeed, He was at work redeeming the entire human race! God at work in your pit to accomplish good in you and glory for Him. The pit cannot separate you from His love. He is still God. You are His, and one day He lift you up from the grave-pit to live with Him forever. Ah, there is much to praise Him for!
Remember your portion
In verse 24 Jeremiah says, "The LORD is my portion." I must confess: I read that and felt a little ripped off. "God is my portion?" A portion is just a piece, a slice of something. I've been to some of those fancy restaurants where they bring you such small portions. I had drive through Taco Bell on the way home and get some food in my stomach so I wouldn't pass out. Don't I get more of God than a slice? Don't I want more of God than a piece?
Am I being greedy to say that I don't want just a slice of God. I want all of God!
But hold on a minute! Think about that. Do I really want all of God? Do I really need all of God? God is infinite.
I used to think that the Lone Ranger and Tonto actually lived inside my television--along with Matt Dillon, Batman, and the Man From Uncle. Then I began to think, "How do all those people fit inside my TV?" They didn't of course. But my childish mind could not comprehend the science behind electromagnetic energy flowing through the airways. I occurred to me that my human heart containing all of God would be even more ridiculous than the western plains existing inside that Zenith TV! How do you put the infinite inside the finite? You don't. So do I really need all of the infinite God? No! A portion of God is more than sufficient for my needs.
Is God your portion?