Have you ever thought to yourself or been told that if you are exactly in the middle of God’s will for your life, things will be easy or smooth? I think sometimes we carry that assumption around, even if we do so without thinking about it. Without doubt, there are times of blessing, plenty, grace and peace, but if we take a close look at the lives of faithful people in Scripture, such as Jeremiah, we realize that God’s plan for our lives often contains times of struggle and difficulty.
The point I want to draw from this passage comes from the passage 8:18 through 9:3. We should take note that Jeremiah is not struggling in his walk with God, or “kicking at the goads” with his calling. Rather, Jeremiah is leading a faithful life dedicated to God and His work through him. And yet it brings him an unusual amount of personal frustration.
“My joy is gone; grief is upon me; my heart is sick within me.”
The prophet then laments about God being gone from His people, and surprisingly enough, God answers his question. Jeremiah wonders if God is still in Zion, and God says there is a good reason it feels like He is absent-the people have turned away from Him. All too often when we pass through seasons in which it seems God is absent, we blame God for being gone. What we should be doing is asking whether we have turned away from Him in any significant way.
And then as Jeremiah continues to struggle through his people’s rebellion and God’s judgment, the first three verses of chapter 9 give us a great glimpse into the heart and mind of the weeping prophet. Contrast the first line of verse one with the first line of verse two:
“Oh that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night…”
“Oh that I had in the desert a traveler’s lodging place, that I might leave my people.”
Jeremiah is in a place of struggle and difficulty because he is bound to his people and bound to God at the same time; he will not let go of his love and care for his culture and he will not let go of his call and vocation from God.
Pretend you have never read beyond Jeremiah 9:3; think for a moment as if you don’t know what the rest of the book holds. Will God’s prophet stay, be faithful to God’s call and hope against hope that some will listen and be saved, or will he disappear into the desert and cast his prophecies over the wall of the city from a safe distance?
Which will we choose? Do we find ourselves torn between love for our fellow human being across the street and our call to be witnesses for God? Have we given up on one or the other in the stress and strain of the conflict? The easy choice is to let one of them go-either love for our neighbor, or our dedication to God. But that is not the choice Jeremiah made.