Recently my pastor opened the sermon by asking: “Have you ever found yourself somewhere you really didn’t want to be?”
The question immediately grabbed my attention. Of course, I thought. Haven’t we all?
He continued, “Have you ever been in a place that is hard and painful and not getting better anytime soon?”
I immediately begin to think of times I’ve felt stuck when the pastor asks us to turn to a passage from the book of Jeremiah.
Personal confession: before this sermon series I could not have told you much about Jeremiah’s life. I knew he was a prophet. I had memorized the ever popular words of Jeremiah 29:11, a comforting verse reminding us that God has plans for us, plans to prosper us and not to harm us, plans to give us hope and a future.
What I did NOT know is that Jeremiah is nicknamed “the weeping prophet” by scholars. You see, Jeremiah was chosen by God to deliver a message of warning to an increasingly wicked people. Jeremiah knew that if the people did not repent, massive judgement was coming. And—surprise, surprise —the people did not listen.
Yet God called Jeremiah to continue to deliver His message, even as it repeatedly fell on deaf ears. On top of that, Jeremiah carried the burden alone, without support from family or close friends. Jeremiah found himself in a place that was hard and painful and not getting better anytime soon.
I begin to wonder if the story of Jeremiah is destined to be depressing.
Just as I’m wondering this, my pastor highlights something truly remarkable about Jeremiah. Despite ongoing rejection from the people—and Jeremiah’s own personal feelings of desperation—he continued to obey God. Jeremiah continued to deliver God’s message even though it didn’t make any sense to him. Even when he was crying out to God in pain, Jeremiah was still in the habit of obeying and saying yes to Him.
I quickly consider my own life. I think about times when I have been in situations that are hard and painful and not getting better anytime soon. As it turns out, my default is often panic over trust. I am quick to try and fix things myself. If something doesn’t make sense or is difficult, I wonder if God has just overlooked it.
I think it is human nature to want to improve or change difficult circumstances. After all, who wants to suffer?
And yet, I think there is something to learn from Jeremiah. Because without a doubt, there will be times in life when we end up somewhere we don’t want to be. And it will be okay to cry out to God and tell Him that the situation is painful and it hurts. But is there a way to still trust Him? Is there a way, like Jeremiah, to practice obedience when it just doesn’t make sense?
It’s certainly not easy. And there are times when the suffering might be too much to bear. But God has promised us—just as he promised Jeremiah—that he will always be with us.
In fact, it might be time for me to memorize another verse in Jeremiah. Because though I will always find comfort in the words of Jeremiah 29:11, I think a deep peace can also be found in the words of Jeremiah 1:8, which read “Do not be afraid of them [insert whatever challenge you are facing], for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.