I started to think about those who have accomplished great things for God, or who were used mightily for him. Those of The Bible. Every one of them, without exception, endured hardships. Most of them lived a life of hardship and did not get to enjoy peace and prosperity in this life. I felt promised that I would get to enjoy peace and prosperity. But now I’m not so sure it will be here on earth. I thought about Moses, who spent his time of service to God dealing with ungrateful children in the wilderness. It was a third of his life! How miserable! He didn’t have peace here on earth, in the physical sense. What about Noah? He spent 120 years being scoffed at as he built an ark in the desert for a rain that didn’t seem possible. Even after that, he spent he next one hundred and something days inside with stinky animals, laboring to feed them and care for them and his family every day. I can’t imagine being in that ark that long. I got snowed in with two kids for a week and was ready to go berserk! Then there were the prophets. Elijah lived in constant fear for his life because Jezebel was bent on killing him. And who wouldn’t have wanted to? He called down a drought from heaven for three and half years!!! He was such the killjoy, from the human perspective, and plenty of people wanted to get rid of him. What a friendless feeling he must have lived with. All the while putting all of his trust in an invisible God who required so much of him. But there was that time … he was in the desert during the drought and God sent ravens to feed him and water to soothe his parched and aching throat. There was evidence of God, even though he was invisible. How easily we forget about those things when the times get tough. Elijah fled when Jezebel threatened his life until God himself had to remind him of these things.
Then there was Jeremiah. That’s actually where God led me to in the word this morning. I was really bummed because I felt like I was being treated unjustly by God. I am a complainer, okay?! Turns out, I’m not the only one. Jeremiah also had a complaint, and recorded it in the word:
“Oh Lord, you deceived me and I was deceived; you overpowered me and prevailed. I am ridiculed all day long, everyone mocks me. Whenever I speak, I cry out claiming violence and destruction. So the word of the Lord has brought me insult and reproach all day long. But if I say “I will not mention him or speak anymore of his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed I cannot. I hear many whispering, “Terror on every side. Report him! Let’s report him!” All my friends are waiting for me to slip, saying, “Perhaps he will be deceived; then we will prevail over him and take our revenge on him.”
I hear ya, Jeremiah. I’m so glad I’m not the only one who has felt this way. Therefore, it is within the realm of human nature. Doubt is universal and I am not immune from it. Just like Jeremiah, though, I must hold on to what I know about the goodness and mercy of God. His providential hand, even when I cannot see or touch it. I’ve seen it’s fruits. Here’s what Jeremiah said about God, after his complaint was voiced:
“But the Lord is with me like a mighty warrior; so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail. They will fail and be thoroughly disgraced; their dishonor will never be forgotten. Oh Lord Almighty, you who examine the righteous and probe the heart and mind, let me see your vengeance upon them, for to you I have committed my cause. Sing to the Lord! Give praise to the Lord! He rescues the life of the needy from the hands of the wicked.
But like myself, Jeremiah kept grumbling even after his beautiful love letter to the glory of God. You can read the rest in Jeremiah 20.
I noticed how abruptly his tune changed. Job did the same thing. He gave glory to God even though he was being sifted. He lost his children, his wealth, his health. He was unable to provide for his family, he was utterly miserable and surrounded by naysayers, and yet he was able to see the goodness of God despite his circumstances. I want to be able to do that. I tend to blame God. When things are going great, I give him my thanks and adoration, but when things take a turn, I give him dirty looks and shake my head at him. I’m sorry, God, for treating you so. Paul reminds me in scripture that our light and momentary troubles here on earth are working for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all (2 Cor. 4:17). Thus sayeth the Lord. Help me to stand in it, and on this, Father, as you do your work within me. Thank you for it all. I love you more than comfort, more than life itself.