When You Don't Know What To Do
You tried, and you failed. It looks like the enemy has won this time.
Jeremiah knows what you are feeling. He has been in this same moment and he took to pen and paper to write about it. Because of how vivid Jeremiah's writings were, many scholars believe he was writing his thoughts amidst the rubble of an overtaken Jerusalem. As ash filled his lungs and the scent of death was overwhelming, he began to write what we now know as Lamentations three. Writing. It’s all that he knew to do.
Jerusalem had just been sieged. It’s 586 BC, years before Jesus walked the Earth. Jeremiah’s people had been slaughtered, burned, some crushed by the rubble. The wall has been destroyed. The day is not ideal; it is, to say the least, a bad day.
Jeremiah starts writing -
“I am the man who has seen affliction
by the rod of the Lord’s wrath.
He has driven me away and made me walk
in darkness rather than light;
indeed, he has turned his hand against me
again and again, all day long.
He has made my skin and my flesh grow old
and has broken my bones.
He has besieged me and surrounded me
with bitterness and hardship.
He has made me dwell in darkness
like those long dead.
He has walled me in so I cannot escape;
he has weighed me down with chains.
Even when I call out or cry for help,
he shuts out my prayer.
He has barred my way with blocks of stone;
he has made my paths crooked.
Like a bear lying in wait,
like a lion in hiding,
he dragged me from the path and mangled me
and left me without help.
He drew his bow
and made me the target for his arrows.
He pierced my heart
with arrows from his quiver.”
If I had to bet, many of you can relate to Jeremiah. In fact, I know this because we are humans and these are human feelings. Feeling betrayed…. forgotten…. maybe you feel hurt more than anything. You are sitting in the dust and the mess of a “did that really just happen?” moment. He was mentally and spiritually confused. See, he KNEW in his mind that God was going to do something special in this place. Something miraculous right? Because that’s what God does. But now…this? Really?
“Where are you God?”
“What are you doing?”
“This makes no sense…”
“You were supposed to come through this time!”
What you feel in your heart and what you see with your eyes isn't lining up.
You tell yourself “God is good. He is faithful. I know this”, but you are looking at a family member who is sick? Or watching a friendship plummet? That is Jeremiah. He is knowing and hearing, “God is good! Keep trusting Him!” but watching his people die and his city crumble. This is the faith life. Trusting Him during the mess. If you could see hope, it would not be true hope, it would just be sight. You see, faith is not confidence from your circumstances, faith is confidence in the midst of your circumstances. I guess you could even say, despite your circumstances.
Jeremiah continues writing. Notice his tone change as his perspective changes. Notice what happens when he fixates on who God is rather than what he is currently going through-
“Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord…”
What changed for Jeremiah when he chose to “call to mind”? Visibly, nothing. The Babylonians had still invaded. People were not rising from the dead and the city wasn't not magically re-assembled… Nope, none of that. In fact, in the period he spent writing this, it’s possible that even more people suffered and died. If nothing is changing, why is Jeremiah suddenly so understanding of God’s goodness? Why is he no longer doubtful? Why isn't he questioning God’s ways anymore? How is he okay with everything going on around him?
Simple- Jeremiah remembered God’s character. He remembered God’s promises. He was able to stand in the middle of this nightmare because he knew this wasn’t the end, these were beginning days. He knew that God would finish what he started.
The enemy wants us to believe that the trial that we are facing is the end.
He wants us to think that the beginning days are behind us. He wants to take our vision. Strong faith is trusting that your best days are not getting left in the past . Tenacity: a continued perseverance. Jeremiah just kept hoping. He kept believing. He kept going. He was tenacious in his walk with God. He was tenacious while his city fell apart. He was tenacious. He wasn't careless or numb to his surroundings, he just knew that he had only one option; to trust that God is who He says He is.
Jeremiah knew that what seemed to be a buried seed was actually a planted dream that needed to root deeper. Maybe that’s your current situation. It’s time for you to stop counting yourself out. It’s time you stop selling short what God is doing in your life. He has not left you. Just because circumstances are tough doesn’t mean God hates you, or is punishing you. Maybe He’s preparing you, He’s planting you, He’s training you, He’s purifying you, He’s protecting you.
The story goes on and the city gets rebuilt. Jesus shows up, does His miraculous Jesus thing, history moves on. Which is great, what a lovely resolution, but this does not make the moment of destruction any easier, nor does it answer the question “why?". It’s not easy to trust God when what we see tells us something contrary to His promises.
We all have a proclivity to let our circumstances drown out our faith.
But His promise to be faithful is deeper than the circumstances we face. Gods reputation to be faithful is more about His love for us than how easy our life is. God cares more about giving us joy than taking away pain. Sometimes the only way teach us lasting joy is to send us through a valley of temporary pain.
So, when you don’t know what to do, look back at who God has been. Remember His promises. Your pain is a massive opportunity to plant seeds of hope in the character of an unwavering and unchanging God. You can complain, you can whine, or you can silence your heart and leverage these moments, both to sharpen your faith and to trust his promise.