Have you ever told someone your troubles and been told, “Just get over it?” We would consider the one giving such advice to be hard and insensitive to our suffering. However, they might just be doing us a great favor by offering such a directive.
In the book of Lamentations, Jeremiah the prophet is mourning the fate of his people. He has spent his ministry warning them of the approaching dangers brought on by their wicked rebellion. He has been persecuted consistently by the very people who should have been quick to hear him and repent. Finally judgment has come, just as he had warned. It is the midst of this setting that we find a jewel of spiritual warfare in Lamentations 3:18-25
And I say, Perished is my strength and my expectation from the Lord.
[O Lord] remember [earnestly] my affliction and my misery, my wandering and my outcast state, the wormwood and the gall.
My soul has them continually in remembrance and is bowed down within me.
But this I recall and therefore have I hope and expectation:
It is because of the Lord's mercy and loving-kindness that we are not consumed, because His [tender] compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great and abundant is Your stability and faithfulness.
The Lord is my portion or share, says my living being (my inner self); therefore will I
who seek Him [inquire of and for Him and require Him by right of necessity and on the authority of God's word].
The first section of this passage looks very familiar to me. Jeremiah has fallen into the same trap that we so often find ourselves. His mind has been caught by the circumstances in which he finds himself and that has been where his thoughts have remained. We do the same thing. We become disappointed over something, or someone and the choices that they make, then we keep dwelling on those things. Someone hurts our feelings or maligns us with their words, so we meditate on what they said and imagine the perfect comeback. Sometimes we even live in the world of ‘if only’. You know, we imagine if only we had received better opportunities, our lives would be more prosperous. If only we had been in a different relationship, we would be happy. Soon, these thoughts consume us and we cannot even enjoy the good things in our lives. The gray cloak of depression envelops us and we are stuck.
Dwelling on the negative circumstances and events we have faced allows those things to not only affect our thought life, but soon fills our heart. This stops us before we even start out our doors. The devil no longer has to be concerned about us because we have defeated ourselves. That is why it is so important to keep ourselves focused on God’s promises and presence. Proverbs 4:23 warns us:
Keep and guard your heart with all vigilance and above all that you guard, for out of it flow the springs of life.
This sounds easy enough when read in the neat capsule of the proverb, but how do we it? It is obvious that the job of keeping guard over our heart falls to us. We could just as easily read the passage as “(You) keep and guard your (own) heart…” Read in that context, the command seems a little more daunting. However, we do not have to do it by ourselves. We have been given a Helper, the mighty Holy Spirirt, who has promised to reside in us and lead and guide us into all truth.
However, we can find powerful principles in the Bible to help us in the effort to guard our hearts. One such passage is found in II Corinthians 10:4-5, which reads:
For the weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood], but they are mighty before God for the overthrow and destruction of strongholds,
[Inasmuch as we] refute arguments and theories and reasonings and every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God; and we lead every thought and purpose away captive into the obedience of Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One)
From this text, it is obvious that the warfare being waged is one that is in the realm of the mind. If God has our heart and mind submitted to Him, He will have our whole lives. We cannot, and should not try to, control others; however, if we control our own attitudes and reactions by submitting to God and His word, we greatly minimize any attack of the enemy and bring glory to God. The Lord is omnipotent and has no problem taking care of our circumstance. Indeed, He has promised that all things will work together for our good because we love Him (Romans 8:28).
We must stand as the Lord Jesus Himself did during His temptation in the wilderness, countering the attacks of the enemy against our minds with the sword of God's word. In the scripture of Proverbs 4:20-22, the command to keep and guard our hearts is preceded by a nugget that makes this clear.
My son, attend to my words; consent and submit to my sayings.
Let them not depart from your sight; keep them in the center of your heart.
For they are life to those who find them, healing and health to all their flesh.
When the enemy attacks our minds with worry and anxiety, we must have God's words on the subject to enable us to do this spiritual warfare.
This seems reasonable , but has this formula been proven? Can we find this principle in action? Let's return to our weeping prophet, Jeremiah, in Lamentations 3:21.
"But this I recall..." Jeremiah after confessing that his soul was continually remembering the hard circumstance he was in and was bowed down inside him, whips into spiritual warfare before our eyes. He doesn't go on a forty day fast, or begin praying an eloquent three hour long soliloquy. Please don't misunderstand and think that prayer and fasting is unimportant. If Jesus prayed and fasted, we as His disciples should do the same. However, Jeremiah comes against the depression and overwhelmed state of his soul by considering what he knows about God. We can almost see the sorrowful prophet with his head down and depression laying heavily upon him like a gray cloak. Then he looks up and a thoughtful expression comes to his face as he considers God's love and tender heart of mercy. He reminds himself of God's stable position, kind nature, and faithfulness. The bowed prophet begins to straighten himself and the cloak of despair begins to slide from his shoulders. Jeremiah tells himself again that his portion or share in life is not what he sees around him, but it is God Himself. He shakes himself and steps from the shadows into the sunshine of God's love and favor. The decision has been made, and Jeremiah's warfare is accomplished. Strength comes as the prophet meditates on God and His word. Lamentations 3:21-25 reads:
But this I recall and therefore have I hope and expectation:
It is because of the Lord's mercy and loving-kindness that we are not consumed, because His [tender] compassions fail not.
They are new every morning; great and abundant is Your stability and faithfulness
The Lord is my portion or share, says my living being (my inner self); therefore will I hope in Him and wait expectantly for Him.
The Lord is good to those who wait hopefully and expectantly for Him, to those who seek Him [inquire of and for Him and require Him by right of necessity and on the authority of God's word].
I can sympathize with Jeremiah because I too have walked in negative circumstances and hard things in life. Everyone has. Like the prophet, we can meditate and consider these hard things and be wrapped in the cloak of darkness and depression having no hope of a brighter outcome. However, let us learn from Jeremiah and shake off that cloak. Let us turn our hearts to what we know of our God.
We can encourage ourselves by meditating on the promises of the Word concerning God's goodness, love, and provision, instead of what is going on around us. Let us guard our hearts by bringing our thoughts into submission to Christ and lining up with His Word.