Though I was raised in New England and lived most of my adult life in the northeast of the United States, I don’t really consider myself an expert on winter anymore. It’s been 14 years since I’ve slogged through snow and slush and mud from November to March.
But I have friends and family who are experiencing an icy, frigid winter. The days are short, the skies are sullen. When the sun does break through, the snow melts, exposing brown, soggy ground.
Other friends are going through painful emotional winters, battered by harsh relational storms. Or they are numbed by dark, barren times in their personal lives.
It seems like spring will never arrive. Of course we know that the physical season of winter will not last forever. Come June, the snow and cold is guaranteed to be done [unless you live in the southern hemisphere!]
We’re less confident of leaving our emotional winters behind. Sometimes it feels like things will never change and we’ll be trapped in the blinding blizzard forever. We doubt whether God really cares.
“As soon as the snake saw his chance, he slithered silently up to Eve. ‘Does God really love you?’ the serpent whispered. ‘If he does, why won’t he let you eat the nice, juicy, delicious fruit? Poor you, perhaps God doesn’t want you to be happy.”
The snake’s words hissed into her ears and sunk down deep into her heart, like poison. Does God love me? Eve wondered. Suddenly she didn’t know anymore…
Eve picked the fruit and ate some. And Adam ate some, too.
And a terrible lie came into the world. It would never leave. It would live on in every human heart, whispering to every one of God’s children: ‘God doesn’t love me.’”
[Sally Lloyd-Jones, The Jesus Storybook Bible]
Does God really love me? The question echoes through our winter.
The writer of Lamentations understands this question. In chapter 3, he gives a litany of what God has done in his life. For 20 verses there’s not a ray of faith-fueled sunshine. Instead, he gives a detailed list of how God has treated him badly: weighed him down, barred his way, pierced his heart, trampled him, surrounded him with bitterness and hardship.
The snake’s question must have sounded very loud in his ear. “Does God really love you?”
Who would blame the writer for turning away from God?
But incredibly, in verse 21, he says, “Yet.”
Yet. Everything hinges on that one small word.
Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for Him.” 3:21-24
How can the writer answer the snake’s hissing question like that?
I don’t think it’s humanly possible. It takes the work of the Holy Spirit, our rememberer, to call to mind God’s goodness and love. And this reminder is joined with God’s supernatural grace that anchors us when we are so numb that we don’t know how we can hold on. Not only that, we have the sympathy of Jesus, our high priest, who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin.* Yet.
Because of Jesus, we can approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.*
...for no one is cast off by the Lord forever.
Though He brings grief, He will show compassion, so great is His unfailing love.
For He does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone.
As I wait through the long winter, will I doubt God’s love or will I continue to hope for His help and healing and rescue?
Will I hold on to His Yes?
For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “yes” in Christ.
II Corinthians 1:20
What about you?
Where are you waiting for the Lord?
Where do you need to say, “Yet this I call to mind?”
And who can you encourage to hold to the hope God gives?