Jeremiah 15:18 (NASB)
“Why has my pain been perpetual and my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Will You indeed be to me like a deceptive stream with water that is unreliable?”
After about thirty years of ministry this is the question Jeremiah put before God. At the beginning of their relationship in chapter one, God called Jeremiah and told him that he was consecrated and that he was specifically appointed as a prophet to speak for Him. For thirty years Jeremiah had faithfully proclaimed God’s truth. Even when his own friends and family members plotted against him (see chapter 11) he turned to the Lord.
There were certainly times that he questioned God (chapter 4 for instance), but in chapter 15 Jeremiah brings his personal misery to God and moves into profound self-pity. After all these years of ministry he is in so much pain he actually asks God if He has deceived him and if He is unreliable. In fact, in verse 10 of the same chapter, Jeremiah regrets that he was even born, implying he regrets he was called by God.
Have you ever gotten to that place where you were so miserable and broken as a believer that you were ready to throw in the towel? Found yourself in so much pain that you wondered why you ever said yes when Jesus called your name?
This confession might be The Ugly part of my tag line “The good, the bad and the ugly”, but in the spirit of full disclosure and being transparent, I can honestly say I have felt EXACTLY that way. Many years ago I had a similar Jeremiah moment with the Lord (I can’t remember exactly when because I have tried to forget it, but my kids were very young because I was dressed in the frumpy-puritan-holier-than-thou-functional-mommy fashion of the 1990’s Christian scene…it said everything except God thinks I am beautiful!).
We were at church that Sunday morning, I can’t remember what Hosanna or Maranatha praise song we were singing, but something in me snapped and I sat down. I couldn’t stand up and sing that song because the words were not true, at least in my life. And not only were the words to the song not true, but in that moment it seemed like God was not true. Everything in my life was upside down. Everything was a struggle. All the questions and all the fears in my heart were screaming in my head like a siren, “NONE OF THIS IS TRUE!”
Then it got worse…the Pastor stood up, took the microphone and said he wanted everyone to march around the sanctuary while we sang…and he was not taking “no” for an answer. I have never felt more like a hypocrite in my life! As I stood up (with my spiritual arm twisted behind my back – I am not proud of this, but I knew then what it meant to murder your brother in your heart!) and schlepped around that sanctuary, it was like a dam burst inside me and with every step I took I got angrier and angrier.
Inside I was yelling at heaven, “We’ve tithed and we don’t have two nickels to rub together! We have given beyond sacrifice and You are not providing! We have served You in every way possible and You are not taking care of us! Why is my husband’s business failing? Why aren’t you meeting our needs? Are You who You say You are or not?” Translation – “We’ve DONE all the right things God and You have not rewarded us. You are not doing Your job!”
In hind sight I realize God was trying to bring me to the end of all of my “doing” for Him. My flesh efforts at righteousness were failing. He was trying to bring me to a place of brokenness, to the place of allowing my flesh to die and Jesus to live His life through me. Honestly, I missed the point of the whole event at the time. But I did repent for being angry with God, sucked it up and kept doing Christian life the way I thought I should for many more years. Like every other time, I believed there must be some aspect I was failing in and once I figured it out, everything would come together. It was a long, exhausting road to grace!
But back to Jeremiah…Jeremiah too had been faithful. Jeremiah obeyed God and up until this point, he really had done it with the right attitude (unlike me). Here in chapter fifteen though, it just hurt too much. He had spent thirty years giving up his life for people who didn’t care and didn’t receive him. And it wasn’t enough! They were still steeped in their sin and they liked it that way. Remind you of Anyone?
At this point in the book and Jeremiah’s life, the rubber was meeting the road. The Babylonians were at the gate so to speak, Jerusalem was under siege and it was time for the price to be paid. Jeremiah probably knew that it really was only going to get worse from there and he couldn’t go on…in his own strength that is.
What did God want in that moment? He wanted Jeremiah, all of him, and He wanted to be known by him. So He did what God always does, He revealed the way back:
Jeremiah 15:19a (NASB)
“Therefore, thus says the Lord, “If you return, then I will restore you— before Me you will stand;”
No matter what our circumstances, no matter where we are in our walk with Him, God wants us to bring it all to Him – the good, the bad and the ugly. In every area of our lives He wants us know what it means to be one with the Living God, to have Him dwell in us and to live out of the depth of that relationship instead of our own strength. The truth is we can’t do any of it in our own strength, there are just times we are more aware of that truth than others.
Is there an area of your life that’s not working and in fact is failing? How honest are you willing to be with God about it? Are you willing to take the road of surrender back to Him and find out what it means to truly know Him and be one with Him? Even if it means laying down your own agenda, your own future? Are you willing to see God’s promises come to fruition on His timetable and not yours? What is it that you really want from God? Tell Him about it.