You see, when I finally got into my classes and around the other students, I realized that they were no different than I was. And that was a big surprise to me. I had believed and feared that they would be coming from strong Christian homes and would have a good knowledge base of scripture and The Faith. And I knew that I was not coming from such a home. I feared that I was going to be "way behind" them in their knowledge and I didn't want to appear ignorant. But what I found was that they came from ordinary family homes just like I had, and that they weren't super spiritual people...they were just like me. In fact, having taken the entire year to study scripture on my own had given me a head start I wasn't expecting. And for a time that puffed me up. My pride caused me to wander. And I paid dearly for it.
The Psalmist said, "Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey Your word." Psalm 119:67
He also said, "It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn Your decrees." Psalm 119:71
After I became puffed up and let my pride cause me to wander in places I should not have strayed, God striped me of every confidence I had and left me with only one thing to cling to...His mercy.
When I think of Lamentations 3, I am instantly back to my wandering and I am cast down with shame for it. Yet at the same time, I am filled with hope because of The Lord's great love for me. If you'll notice, I didn't finish the quote of the verses in Lamentations. I did this for a reason.
You see, I've known many people through the years, the majority of them through the church. And what I've seen many times is the way some recollect their pre-salvation days. It isn't uncommon for people who align themselves with the church to remember their pre-salvation experiences with snickering and conspiratorial giggles, almost as if there is no shame in it. But the thing is, none of what the wicked do is amusing in God's eyes, nor is it cute. This doesn't usually happen when someone is "giving their testimony". This usually happens in leisurely times away from the church building, when people feel at ease to be themselves, times when their guard is let down and they don't feel pressure to look the part of a "contrite Christian", times when they are not pretending.
When we look back upon our sin, we should be cut to the heart. And when we consider with a sober attitude, how we've offended God with our sin, we should rejoice at His great mercy that He has shown us. To look back endearingly to the days we spent reveling in our rebellion is to forget what an abomination all of it was to God. Instead, we should be down cast within...and then the beauty of the hope we have because of God's unfailing love will have it's proper place in our hearts.
When first I quoted this verse, I left off midway through vs. 21, "...and this I call to mind..."
When you are feeling comfortable to be yourself, what do you call to mind when you remember your affliction and your wandering?
Like the writer of the book of Lamentations, I would encourage you to remember your affliction and wanderings as with bitterness and gall...and be downcast within yourself. Because the moments we spent rebelling against our God are shameful. He said, "It is shameful even to mention what the wicked do in secret." (Eph. 5:12) We should also consider that they were moments for which Christ hung upon the Cross. To smile and laugh and remember them with even a hint of glee is a shameful thing. Instead, recall them with a sober heart and how Jesus, in His great love for you, endured the Cross and how you were not consumed because His compassions never fail.
"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.'"
Praise be to God who saved us from our wicked ways and gave us an eternal hope that rests upon God's mercy. May our pleasure and joy be rooted in His love, and may we forsake even the memories of wicked pleasure. May the Lord be our portion and our delight.