I have been confronted by the theme lately of complete surrender and complete brokenness. It’s like God is whispering to me, reminding me of what I had unknowingly lost track of in the dust of suffering. The last six months have been like surgery. God has been taking a knife to heart and digging out the pieces he doesn’t want there anymore, in hopes I would cling to Him, completely. I am left without many options to cling to besides Him…. although my broken, desperate and wandering heart tries to find them.
I think to solidify this in my heart and to bring some type of comfort to my broken soul, God directed me to read Jeremiah. Jeremiah is known as the Weeping Prophet. Sometimes I laugh – Sometimes my rebellion wants to yell “Really, God?” Cant I read John or Psalms? But He always knows how to take care of me. He always cares and He is always good.
In the first chapter, what God calls Jeremiah to do shook me. Most people quote the verses about how God knew Jeremiah “before he was formed in the womb” but if you read on this is what He says:
But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ Because everywhere I send you, you shall go, And all that I command you, you shall speak. “Do not be afraid of them, For I am with you to deliver you,” declares the Lord. Then the Lord stretched out His hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me, “Behold, I have put My words in your mouth. “See, I have appointed you this day over the nations and over the kingdoms, To pluck up and to break down, To destroy and to overthrow, To build and to plant.” (Jeremiah 1:7-10 NASB)
What strikes me about this is God called him to be a prophet. This was no choice of Jeremiah’s. It was also not his age, experience or rank that qualified him but God who commanded him to go and to do.
What did God call him to? To pluck up and break down. To destroy and overthrow, to build and plant through the words God places in his mouth. He would be a mouth piece to a rebellious, unrepentant Israel. What a weighty call. What a heavy burden. For a man who loved Israel, he would now go through horrible rejection, reproach, persecution from his beloved nation, even to the point of despairing of his own life, to obey and be the mouth piece of God (Jer. 15:15b)
Is this what you picture calling to be? When Christians talked about their “calls”, I have never heard anyone even come close to discussing anything remotely close to what Jeremiah experienced. I don’t know if it is the result of the American church or our own sin that entices us to believe the direction and will God has for our lives will always be coupled with ease, comfort and we will be rescued from harm. This is not the calling of any of our forefathers of the faith. Certainly not what God commanded Jeremiah to do.
The promise here is no different than in other parts of scripture – God will be with you… to deliver you. Deliverance does not mean escape from rejection, physical strife, loneliness or possible eventual death. So what does deliverance mean here?
When God called Jeremiah here, there really isn’t much of a choice. To turn away would awaken God’s wrath, that Jeremiah was fully aware of. Jeremiah did not, like many of us, doubt God’s power to move. This made his obedience less of a choice, and more of a necessity. And where else could he go, where God was not? What could he do but follow God. For those who have been captured with the affections and fear of their Maker, there really isn’t anywhere else to go. Even if the path is taking you where you never wanted to go. And asking to do what you never wanted to do.
At one point in Jeremiah the actual translation of how he felt about his call was “seduction” and “rape” in Jeremiah 20:7a. God has seduced him, then overpowered him to do his will. What hard imagery is this? What harsh imagery to reconcile with a good God … But is it?
Why would all of this be a comfort to me amidst suffering? When you have been placed in unlikely of situations, where all feels lost and despaired, to know God can interact with people he loves like he does with Jeremiah is a comfort. To know his love can actually look at moments like hate. His love sent his Son to die for all mankind. God’s love for Israel sent Jeremiah to call them to repent, knowing full well Jeremiah would suffer. God’s love for his Church sent the first disciples to preach the gospel to the world, and to eventually be killed. God’s love sends missionaries to desolate places, to harsh lives.
Why do people like Jeremiah, Paul, Jesus, you and I choose to follow God, even if it’s most likely we will go through refining fire, and maybe through moments of such despair you wish you were dead?
This is the only answer that makes sense to me – God, Himself, becomes better than life. The eternal becomes greater than the finite. God breaks into our lives and shakes us so deeply to our core by his love that we can no longer live for self alone. Gospel Wakefulness takes great efforts to describe this phenomenon. When this “phenomenon” happens, you begin to follow God joyfully … blindly. When God brings you to an unknown, unforsakable place, your flesh might squirm with the fears of what it might entail, but you have no where else to go. You have met Love, Himself. You know too well where all other paths in life will take you. You can not turn back. You cannot return. To do so would be walk away from God.
He promises us: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18)
So I welcome whatever following God looks like in my life because I know whatever it is, my life will not be in vain. I have everything in God, Himself. And no matter what I know the goodness, glory and work of God in me is worth the temporary suffering. I cannot say that about any other place in this life. Nothing compares to eternity. Nothing compares to God’s work. Nothing compares to God, Himself, loving, working and living inside of me.
I want to leave you with this song by Sara Groves that paints the tension between wanting to follow God but dealing with the frustration of where it is taking you and having to reconcile that it is still where you want to be.
Painting Pictures of Egypt
I don’t want to leave here
I don’t want to stay
It feels like pinching to me either way
The places I long for the most
Are the places where I’ve been
They are calling after me like a long lost friend
It’s not about losing faith
It’s not about trust
It’s all about comfortable
When you move so much
The place I was wasn’t perfect
But I had found a way to live
It wasn’t milk or honey
But then neither is this
I’ve been painting pictures of Egypt
Leaving out what it lacked
The future seems so hard
And I want to go back
But the places that used to fit me
Cannot hold the things I”ve learned
And those roads closed off to me
While my back was turned
The past is so tangible
I know it by heart
Familiar things are never easy to discard
I was dying for some freedom
But now I hesitate to go
Caught between the promise
And the things I know
If it comes too quick
I may not recognize it
Is that the reason behind all this time and sand?
If it comes too quick
I may not appreciate it
Is that the reason behind all this time and sand?