The prophet Jeremiah warned Judah for more than 40 years to repent or God would allow the dreaded Babylonians to attack them, take them into captivity, and destroy Jerusalem and the Temple. Jeremiah, called the “weeping prophet,” had a tough job. God forbade him from marrying, his message was wildly mocked, and he suffered beatings, imprisonment, and death threats.
Think 2020 has been rough? Try it for more than 40 years without so much as a ‘thank you.’ Nevertheless, in Lamentations this same prophet wrote, “This I recall to my mind therefore I have hope. The Lord’s loving-kindnesses indeed never cease. For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness.” Wow!
Inspired by these verses, Thomas O. Chisholm wrote the words of the hymn “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” in 1923, and William Runyan composed the music that same year. Ninety-seven years later Christians are still singing the beloved hymn, particularly as Thanksgiving approaches. What do we have to be thankful for in 2020? That depends on whether one has a grateful relationship with God, or one is a cynic who trusts only in himself or herself.
Christians are thankful God is always faithful and compassionate to His children. Morning by morning God shows mercies and meets all of our needs. Throughout the seasons the sun, moon, and stars “join with all nature in manifold witness” to God’s great faithfulness, mercy and love.
Perhaps after more than 40 years of attacks from his fellow countrymen even Jeremiah contemplated something along the lines of the final quatrain of the hymn. “Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide; Strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow, Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside.”
Sometimes each of us feels like the whole world is against us, or at the very least is crashing down around us. Scoffers are cursing, laughing, and boasting their own self-righteousness and irreverence for God Himself. “Why God?” we pray, wondering whether anyone's listening. There is. God is always ‘there’ to hear our prayers and our supplications.
When we face those times everyone and everything appears to be against us (and, everyone faces times like these), believers can always look upward away from the hate and anger toward God whose “own dear presence” cheers us and guides us, gives us strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow. Then we know what we have to be thankful for in 2020! “Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside.”
With an eternal perspective Christians can see 2020 as a blip on a radar screen. Even those of us who have lost livelihoods, savings, friends and family members know the past is not indicative of what lies ahead, because we have a confident expectation in God’s faithfulness to us.
Cynics among us have no such hope, but trust in their own strengths and in their own mob’s truth and narrative. Something about that kind of togetherness breeds more mob mentality. Hey! The mob rules! The majority rules! Everybody else shut up and go away!
That’s the kind of thing Jeremiah heard every day of his more than 40 years of warnings. He survived and was vindicated, not because of any strength in himself, but due wholly to God’s great faithfulness.