Grace Immersion

Bonus Day 56

Hitting Bottom

Read Lamentations 3:19–26

’Twas Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.

What did John Newton mean when he wrote that second stanza? How did God’s grace teach my heart to fear — and then relieve those fears?

A California lifeguard once told me the key to learning how to swim in the ocean is, counter-intuitively, to first be afraid of the ocean. “Most people don’t respect the sea,” he explained. “They don’t understand how dangerous it is. Once you respect it, then you know how to deal with it.”

Similarly in 12-step groups people talk about “hitting bottom” — coming to realize that their lives are out of control, and being horrified at the consequences of their selfishness — as a necessary step to healing. Because it’s only then they see that their only hope is in a power greater than themselves. If people think they’re basically good folks with a few minor character flaws that just make them more eccentric and endearing, they’re in for a rude awakening, if they wake up at all.

The prophet Jeremiah describes what this process feels like in the biblical Book of Lamentations. This sounds to me like the internal dialogue of a man living through the theology of Romans — he’s hitting bottom, and then remembering God’s grace:

…I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of his wrath.
…I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.
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.
The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.

Lamentations 3:1, 19–26

Notice the words Jeremiah uses to describe God’s gift when he makes that emotional turn: “great love, compassion, faithfulness, goodness, salvation”… That’s the good news! Your problem is that in your own strength you really are lost. The good news is that by God’s grace you really are found!

Which part of Jeremiah’s description about his lostness have you experienced personally? How?

What gives Jeremiah hope?

How does the phrase “it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD” relate to the doctrine of grace?

Talk to God today about how lost you were without Him. Express your gratitude. If this devotion has caused you, as Jeremiah says, to remember your affliction and cause your soul to be downcast, please remind yourself that the mercies of God are new every morning. Thank Him for His great love to you!