Sing to the Lord; praise the Lord! For he has delivered the life of the needy from the hand of evildoers. Cursed be the day on which I was born! The day when my mother bore me, let it not be blessed! – Jeremiah 20:13-14 ESV
These two verses couldn’t be more contradictory and confusing. On the one hand, Jeremiah is singing the praises of God for delivering his life from the hands of his enemies. Then it seems as if he has an immediate and dramatic change of heart and curses the day he was born. The most likely explanation is that these two divergent views represent two separate moments in Jeremiah’s life. While they appear to be a single unit, there is actually a gap between verses 13 and 14. What it reveals to us is just how human Jeremiah was. Like us, he could go from delight to despair in a matter of minutes. He could go from praising God at one moment to questioning the very purpose of his existence. The circumstances of life can wreak havoc on the child of God. That’s why it is so dangerous to place our hope and trust in the things of this world. Jeremiah was having to learn the difficult, but invaluable lesson of trusting in God. His calling was not an easy one. Fulfilling the role of a prophet of God was not for the feint of heart. His message was not going to be well-received. He was not going to be popular or get invited to a lot of parties. His was going to be a life of loneliness accompanied by constant rejection and apparent failure. The risk Jeremiah would run would be to let his circumstances dictate his view of God.
It is so easy for us to rejoice in God when things go our way or turn out well. Praise comes easy when we find the circumstances of our lives worthy of praise. When we get a promotion, it’s easy to rejoice and praise God. When we get good news from the doctor, it’s natural to thank God and give Him glory. But if we get looked over for a promotion or receive a less-than-satisfactory report from the doctor, we can find it difficult to muster up the motivation to give God thanks. It is so easy to see God in the midst of blessing. But He becomes far more difficult to comprehend when our circumstances take a turn for the worse. Difficulty can make God seem distant. The presence of trials can make us question the presence of God. But He is there. In the best of times and in the worst of times. God is not a fair-weather friend. He had promised to be with Jeremiah through thick and thin. “I am with you to save you and deliver you” (Jeremiah 15:20 ESV). God had not told Jeremiah that it was going to be easy. In fact, He had told Jeremiah that the people would reject both he and his message. He would face opposition. He would encounter persecution along the way. But God would be there every step of the way.
When difficulty shows up in our lives, it is normal and natural to wonder what is going on. Nobody likes trials in their life. But as children of God we must always remember that our God loves us and cares for us greatly. He has not promised us a trouble-free life. In fact, as children of God, we have been placed smack dab in the middle of a very difficult situation. We have been given an assignment by God to live distinctively and differently all the while being surrounded by spiritual darkness. Paul put it this way: “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:14-15 ESV). It’s difficult to be lights in the darkness. It’s hard to keep from being overwhelmed by those who hate what we stand for and reject the message we have been told to share. We can easily find ourselves experiencing spiritual schizophrenia, moving from the heights of glory to the depths of despair, in the blink of an eye. All it takes is a setback, a disappointment, a trial or a temporary trouble in our life, and we can go from praise to pessimism in a heart beat.
But when those occasions occur, we must go back to the truth. We must remind ourselves of the nature of our God and the promise of His calling. We belong to Him. He loves us greatly and has promised to never leave us or forsake us. He has given us His Spirit. He has provided us with His Word. He has secured our eternal future through the sacrifice of His Son. The troubles and trials of life are real. They are difficult to understand and endure. But as Paul said, “our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” (2 Corinthians 4:17 NLT). We have to keep an eternal perspective. This life is temporary and all the trials and troubles we face in it are nothing compared with the incredible future God has in store for us. He is even using the difficulties of this life to mold us into the likeness of His Son. Yes, that’s hard to see sometimes. It can seem so unfair and far from fun. But God’s agenda for our lives involves our holiness, not our happiness. He is in the perfecting business. His desire is to make us increasingly dependent upon Him so He can reveal His power on behalf of us. So no matter what is happening around us or to us, we must always remind ourselves to think about what God is doing in us.