Because we indeed live in “terrible times”, as warned by the Apostle Paul, there is plenty of life to lament and regret. The “terrible times” described in II Timothy 3 are not rooted in natural disasters or even Christian persecution but the woe that comes from abounding sin within and around us. Believers and unbelievers suffer from personal failure and defeat as well as the destruction of others’ sins against us.
The promise of healing and restoration is intrinsic to our covenant relationship to God. But how does that work? How does this happen when we are convinced, ‘no job is better than the one I lost’, ‘my marriage will never be what it was’, ‘I cannot overcome this grief’, ‘I cannot live with this pain’, ‘the ministry was utterly destroyed…
“No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise.” Ezra 3:13
Contextually, the Israelites here were being restored to their homeland after 70 years of exile and captivity. All God’s people suffered due to prevalent sin and rebellion. But restoration is glorious, as God moves even the hearts of world powers to bring His people back. Ezra and Nehemiah describe not only the return of the Jews but the rebuilding of the altar and temple. The magnificence of the first temple of God however, was lost forever, “…many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud…” when they saw this new temple foundation laid.
It is natural to weep and lament for what or whom is lost, to anguish over sin that robbed and destroyed, to regret life opportunities that seem forever gone. But even as we’re weeping, God is building a new thing within the life of His Body, His believers. It is okay to deeply lament even as others are rejoicing if together we grasp the truth and trust that God is doing a new thing – He is not refurbishing the old but building anew.
When true believers weep and lament while choosing to believe – a more genuine faith arises for the world to see. We have a sure anchor that the world’s culture cannot promise – God is faithful to His people and will once again renew. Later in Ezra, after the completion of this new altar and temple, “…the priests, the Levites and the rest of the exiles – celebrated the dedication of the house of God with joy.”
We are surely suffering the fruits of sin in these “terrible times”, we may be broken down and trampled upon but we need never be out of the race. God honors the faith of those that cry out to Him, that move toward Him, no matter how ‘bruised the reed’ or how weak the ‘smoldering wick’.
If we set our hearts to believe with a will to seek Him, we can move in the ‘passing lane’ – not surpassing those around us but moving past the loss, regret, and wounds that would stop us.
Following the Lord Jesus and holding onto God’s word, we can journey into this passing lane. Even moving inch by inch with tears abounding, we can and will surely win the race.