The book of Jeremiah has been a difficult study. In fact, in five years I really can’t remember feeling this way about a study. It seems like I am trudging through mud with a fifty pound pack on my back. There is so much about it that is hard: Jeremiah’s life is hard, the message is heavy, the message doesn’t change much over a very long period of time, and some of the specific things God says are just plain HARD.
What do you do with God telling Jeremiah not to pray for the people because He won’t listen? What about the idea that people who obey God and speak His truth are sometimes beaten and put in prison? What about when God says He will utterly destroy His own people?
God even tells His faithful servant that he is not to marry or have children because of what is coming on the land. At that point it seems to me Jeremiah was totally without earthly comfort – no one to come home to at night, no one to have dinner with, no one to share his heart with, no children to enjoy, no promise of future descendants. Jeremiah was left with absolutely nothing, but God.
Yesterday in class when we asked what has spoken personally to people the most during our study of Jeremiah everyone shared something different, but I heard echoing in their thoughts, “This is hard.” But HARD doesn’t mean it hasn’t been good. In all the difficulty I also heard God gently speaking to and encouraging every one right where they are, including me.
This theme of ‘Some Things Are Just Hard’ actually started the night before in our advanced discipleship class. We had a very lively, three-hour discussion about suffering in the life of a believer in Jesus Christ. Some very difficult Scriptures came up during that discussion as well. For instance, God hardening Pharaoh’s heart in Exodus (repeated throughout chapters 7 – 14); God sending an evil spirit to torment King Saul (see 1 Samuel 16:14); and the story of Job and God’s role in it (particularly the first two chapters), just to name a few.
What I really appreciate about both of these discussions about ‘hard things’ is how God’s grace has changed how I handle them. As a Bible study teacher I have always carried a burden and deep sense of responsibility to make sure no one leaves a class or a discussion confused or struggling or worse with some incorrect perception of God, or me for that matter. It is finally dawning on me that I am not responsible for other people’s theology. I don’t need to manage God’s reputation and as long as I am being obedient to Him, I don’t need to worry about mine.
It is so freeing to allow God’s Spirit to speak to people and not stress over what others think. I love the freedom of saying, “I don’t know the answer to that.” Or even if I disagree with them not feeling like I need to explain my position. The Holy Spirit is our Instructor.
So what do I do with the ‘hard things’ in Scripture? Take them to God. I may not understand what I am reading, but I know God’s character and I trust Him to reveal it to me in His time. Now I am learning to let Him reveal it to you too.
Thank You Father for the freedom of Your Grace!