Jeremiah 20:1–18comment (0)
February 16, 2006
By Don Sandley
Related Scripture: Jeremiah 20:1–18
Family Bible Study
Chair of Theatre, Samford University; Southwestern Seminary graduate
Dealing With Doubt
When we commit our lives to Christ, we commit to a life of service because we are committing to be like Christ. Service means humbly agreeing to the tasks God calls us to and seeing them through. But life throws us curves. Each of us will suffer bumps in the road of life. You may be the target of unwarranted criticism, suffer financial concerns, lose a loved one to death or have to deal with prolonged illness. Any of these and many more struggles in life can shake the faith of the strongest believer and give rise to doubt. In the dark days of doubt, it is good to remember the account of Jeremiah and to take strength from the way God saw him through his weariness and doubt.
Jeremiah’s call from God was to deliver the strong message of repentance and to declare to Judah that without change its people would suffer enslavement in Babylon. Jeremiah 20:1–6 tells us that Jeremiah courageously spoke God’s truth and, in so doing, incurred the wrath of Pashhur, the chief officer of the temple. Jeremiah was put in the stocks, beaten and subjected to public humiliation.
Jeremiah is not swayed and boldly proclaimed the error of the priest’s ways. Jeremiah suffers a fate that we simply do not have to fear. Believers just do not suffer beatings for proclaiming their faith in the United States. The worst we can expect is to be challenged to defend our position in the court of public discourse. Yet we face things that may challenge our calling in a different way. Serving God can require a financial sacrifice or a great sacrifice of time that can drain our energy. But declaring God’s truth is not optional. We must do it if we are to be called Christians.
In verse 7, Jeremiah, alone in his time of prayer, talks honestly to God about the circumstances of his service saying, “O LORD, you deceived me, and I was deceived; you overpowered me and prevailed. I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me.” What strikes the believer when he reads these words from a towering Old Testament figure like Jeremiah is the unabashed honesty. Jeremiah tells God exactly how he feels, and it is uncomfortable for those of us who were raised never to question or disparage God’s plan.
Yet there it is in poetic power — the scalding doubt of a suffering man. So we have to ask ourselves why verses 7–10, in which Jeremiah opens up to God, are in the Bible. I think it is to show us just how big and loving our God is. God is big enough to take all we can dish out. If we are angry with God, then He is big enough to hear our honesty. Anger is not the opposite of love. Apathy is.
Jeremiah’s complaint is a true act of faith. If Jeremiah had simply stopped praying, packed up his prophet robes and pretended God was no longer around, then that would have been a sacrilege. But honestly opening up our hearts, no matter how angry or frustrated we are with God, is how we find our way through doubt.
As a college professor, I spend a great deal of satisfying time just listening when students come to me with a dilemma. I will ask them a simple question and just listen as they talk their way through options until they come to a conclusion. Inevitably the more they talk, the more they realize that they can only control so much; after that, they must decide and trust God with their decision.
Jeremiah 20:11–13 is a biblical example of the exact same scenario.
Jeremiah has suffered pain and indignity in God’s service and bared his soul to God. Then, in these verses, he talks himself back to the realization that God, no matter what we may think in our narrow vision, is in control. Jeremiah says, “Sing to the Lord! Give praise to the Lord! He rescues the life of the needy from the hands of the wicked.” Jeremiah declares with all his might that God in any circumstance is worthy of praise and fully engaged in our lives.
For us, this is very good news. We are bombarded with so many messages about what we should believe, what should be important to us and how we should live. At the end of it all, God is our source and by tending to our dialogue with Him through prayer and study of His Word, we will know what God wants from us.