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Jan 2, 2020, 2:42 PM

Hope in God

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning; great is God’s faithfulness.

(Lamentations 3:22-23)

Every year we take stock of the past year and then we work out our vision and our goals for the New Year. Yet, for some of our surroundings, our daily routines and us are so familiar that we have failed to notice when God has intervened in our lives.

In the beginning of the third chapter of the book of Lamentations, Jeremiah the prophet speaks as an individual who was suffering from afflictions, which he said, had been caused by God. Yet it was not only he, but also many others in his community who were suffering from afflictions. He describes his sufferings and the sufferings of others in Judah as his own personal experience. Therefore Jeremiah lamented to God on his own behalf and on behalf of the sufferings of others in the nation.

In the year 2019, here in the Gambia, we have seen and heard about the sufferings of many people as they tell their story to the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC). As we listen to their stories, like Jeremiah we recognise their suffering and we go through their suffering and tragedy with them. We hear of their walk in darkness and the desperate place in which they found themselves. For many, going through the times of their affliction must have felt like God had abandoned them, especially as they found themselves surrounded by the bitterness and woe of others. Many have died, and some thought they would never survive in their distressed state. We have heard stories of unjust and cruel imprisonment. We have heard stories of terrible torture and painful death.

In the Bible, we hear how God’s own prophet Jeremiah lamented that God had shut out his prayer. This testimony of Jeremiah is a powerful example for us today. Like Jeremiah, we can believe today that we can have a personal relationship with God, and we can trust that God is our refuge and stronghold in afflictions and suffering, even as Jesus Christ, God’s only beloved son, has suffered torture and death on the cross for us to bring us eternal life and hope, here and now and for the future life to come in heaven.

Just as the suffering and affliction of Jeremiah and the people of Judah was not in vain, so the experience of those who are sharing their story through the work of TRRC is not for nothing. Even though at the time of their affliction they may have felt abandoned and alone, perhaps thinking that they have been abandoned by God, we can know with confidence that God was always by their side, even as God was with Jeremiah and the people of Judah, and even as God was with Jesus on the cross, even though Jesus himself cried on the cross, “Why have you forsaken me, O God?” (Matthew 27:46) – We know with certainty that God had not really forsaken Jesus, for God raised Jesus Christ from the dead on the third day. God did not let Jesus die for nothing. Rather, Jesus died to defeat death, to defeat injustice and sin, and to bring justice, peace and eternal life for all who believe in him.

Jeremiah in his misery and suffering described all the ways that he and the people felt God opposed and even attacked them. This is what he described: God was like a bear and a lion waiting to mount a surprise attack. God was like an archer who bent His bow and aimed his arrow at Jeremiah as his target. God was like a mocker who sang a taunting song against His own people. God was like an unjust judge, giving a cup of judgment and wormwood for the condemned to drink. In his terrible situation of suffering, Jeremiah felt that God was the one who was breaking his teeth with gravel (Lamentations 3:1-13).

What an expression of fear and pain. What a terrible feeling of aloneness and lack of support. As we read this honest testimony of pain in Holy Scripture from the lips of God’s prophet, we ourselves feel his pain. We sense his despair as we read how he cries out: “My strength and my hope have perished from the Lord!” (Lamentations 3:18)) No wonder Jeremiah and Jerusalem could say this. With God as their enemy, where is strength? Where is love? Where is mercy? Where is hope? Where is peace and goodwill?

We too can say like Jeremiah, “our strength and our hope have perished from the Lord”, when as a Nation in 2019 we have seen young people leave their homes in chasing the phantom of greener pastures elsewhere and many have suffered terribly and even died on their desperate journeys.  Some people simply despair, some mistreat others because of jealousy and envy or because they blame them for their own misfortunes. Some others work very hard to achieve their goals and become rich, popular and famous, only to find that their hopes and dreams are dashed because of unforeseen circumstances outside their control, or because others take it violently from them. At the end, their feelings of disappointment, cynicism, despair and failure become our suffering, too. Without God’s love there is no wisdom, without God’s mercy there is no prospect, without God’s faithfulness there is no hope.

Despite all the injustice and pain, we can have our hope in God’s help rekindled, just like the prophet. Yes, Jeremiah found it useful and helpful to remember his suffering and not to pretend as if nothing had happened. However, he also brought his terrible suffering and despair before God in prayer.

And the wonderful and just God of love restored his hope. God revealed himself to his suffering prophet through the following words, which follow immediately after Jeremiah’s testimony of pain: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23). And Jeremiah’s hope is soon restored, as we discover from his words, which follow immediately after this wonderful confession of trust. He continues: “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him”(Lamentations 3:24). As Jeremiah remembers and rediscovers how wonderful God is, his hope is restored.

We, too, must never forget how good, loving and faithful God is, how powerful God is, how great God’s love is, and how merciful God is. Indeed, his mercies are new every morning, and his love never ends.

Wherever there is life, there is hope. God can and will bring hope, comfort and healing. For some this will come quickly for others it will take longer, but it will come.

No matter how bad our situation and how bad the past day or month or year has been, God has compassion with us, God’s love will never fail, and his mercies are new every morning. Just as the prophet Jeremiah was comforted over the death of many in his community, just as God helped him survive his suffering and restored him in the end, so we, too, will find comfort, healing and restoration today.

Let us therefore go into the New Year 2020 with hope and courage, with trust in God and with a confident resolve to hold on to the God who has brought us through so much and sustained us through it all to see this day. Let us as a nation have faith in God. Let us therefore encourage our children and young people to put their trust in God. Let us therefore bring confidence, hope and courage to our children and young people by supporting their talents and skills. Let us see all the children and young people in the country as our very own children, going beyond cultural backgrounds. Let us create a rich and rewarding environment to foster a wellspring of new talent, for a flourishing of new ideas and courageous action. Let us together create exciting new opportunities for those who until now have had little opportunity, so that they, too, can contribute to the flourishing of their own families, to the thriving of their local communities and to the welfare of the nation as a whole. Let us together build a nation who, under the blessing of the Almighty God, can flourish and thrive in a spirit of true reconciliation, peace and goodwill to all.

Let us take inspiration from the prophet Jeremiah. As he prayed to God and said, “Great is your faithfulness”, his confidence and faith in God was restored, his hope increased, and he found the inspiration to lift his whole nation from despair and resentment to new hope and restoration. We, today, can do the same.

My brother, my sister, whatever your hopes and dreams are for yourself and your family, for your community and even for the whole nation, the resources and blessings you need to reach your goals can all be found in God, and they can only be found in God. He has the final say. He is the one who transforms and turn things around. He is the one who makes a way where there is no way, and we can say to God: “great is your faithfulness”, as we surrender every part of our lives to Almighty God in Jesus Christ his son.  Seeking God, praying to him, will bring a renewed goodness, peace and hope to our nation, no matter what situation we ourselves, or the nation as a whole goes through. There is no need to despair at all, for we have a God who is all good and all-powerful. And this amazing God loves unconditionally and wants to bless us beyond anything we can imagination, as we put our trust in him.

This new year, I encourage you to trust in God and to trust God’s promises. May Almighty God bless you and your family, your community and our nation with his peace, restoration and renewal, and may he grant you good health. May Almighty God’s blessings of steadfast love and mercies be in all of our lives and inspire us to go into this New Year with hope and courage. May the Almighty God change your life and prosper the work of your hands.