Have you ever gone through a difficult time or a time of persecution and wondered why God was allowing difficult times in your life? Have you ever suffered physical pain or disease or watched a loved one struggle with cancer and wonder why God does not heal all of His faithful children?
Jeremiah was called by God to proclaim to the people of Judah their future destruction and captivity. Although intimidated by God’s call on his life, Jeremiah was obedient and listened to God, passing on each message the Lord gave him. Yet as we read through the book of Jeremiah, we see that life was not easy for him. We can imagine that his message was less than popular for it was extremely harsh. For example, listen to these words of the Lord spoken through Jeremiah:
“For I will upset the careful plans of Judah and Jerusalem. I will allow the people to be slaughtered by invading armies, and I will leave their dead bodies as food for the vultures and wild animals. I will reduce Jerusalem to ruins, making it a monument to their stupidity. All who pass by will be astonished and will gasp at the destruction they see there. I will set to it that your enemies lay siege to the city until all the food is gone. Then those trapped inside will eat their own sons and daughters and friends. They will be driven to utter despair” (Jeremiah 19:7-9).
As you can imagine, Jeremiah’s message did not get a resounding “Amen” or “Preach it, brother!” Instead he was persecuted, plotted against, arrested, mocked, flogged, whipped, put it stocks and placed on trial. When Jerusalem was attacked, Jeremiah’s life was in danger as well. When the people of Judah were led into exile, Jeremiah was also taken captive.
Listen to these words of Jeremiah and God’s response to His faithful servant.
Jeremiah: “What sorrow is mine, my mother. Oh, that I had died at birth! I am hated everywhere I go.”
God: “I will take care of you, Jeremiah.” (15:10-11)
Jeremiah: “Lord, you know what’s happening to me. Please step in and help me…I bear your name…Why then does my suffering continue? Why is my wound so incurable? Your help seems as uncertain as a seasonal brook, like a spring that has gone dry.”
God: “I am with you to protect you and rescue you…I will certainly keep you safe…I will rescue you…” (15:15-21)
Jeremiah: “Lord, you are my strength and fortress, my refuge in the day of trouble!” (16:19)
God: “But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.” (17:7-8)
Jeremiah: “O Lord, if you heal me, I will truly be healed; if you save me, I will be truly saved. My praises are for you alone!” (17:14)
We know from other Scriptures that sometimes God’s children go through times of suffering, even when they are following God’s will for their lives. Consider Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:4-5: In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food.
So, if following God does not guarantee us a life without trouble, why do we continue to serve Him? Consider Paul’s words again in 2 Timothy 2:10-12a: So I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen. This is a trustworthy saying: If we die with him, we will also live with him. If we endure hardship, we will reign with him.
Yes, and everyone who wants to life a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (2 Tim. 3:12).
But also consider our reward: God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him (James 1:12).
So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while (1 Peter 1:6). …Be very glad – for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world (1 Peter 4:13).
I am going to stir a second helping of the words of God to Jeremiah into my morning coffee and choose to be glad no matter what the circumstances: “But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.” (17:7-8)