The prophet Jeremiah cries out, “Why did I come out from the womb to see toil and sorrow, and spend my days in shame?” (Jer. 20:18)
Both biblically and experientially, questions like Jeremiah’s that bemoan, “Is this really all worth it?” can become habitual in our earthly lives. Although Jeremiah may know that “the Lord is with [him] like a mighty warrior” and never leaves his side, Jeremiah (and we) still can feel that “cursed be the day I was born!” (Jer. 20:11, 14 NIV)
In times of great grief and tragedy, the approximately eighteen inches between the head and the heart can seem like a vast chasm. Although we may know that the Lord has us in his arms, know that he will work out all for good, and know that his love for us is unfailing, there are moments of despondency in which we do not feel that the good, victorious end will have been worth all of this pain and trouble.
In today’s reading, Jeremiah’s particular pain and trouble have come through the difficult word that he has been given by the Lord to proclaim to the people of Judah. He has been mocked and beaten, and there are plots against his life. However, the Lord is not quite finished. The Lord instructs Jeremiah to warn the people of Judah that the punishment for their stiff-necked rebellion is imminent and real—much more real than the earthly punishment that they have inflicted on Jeremiah.
The word of the Lord God is greater and more powerful than anything on this earth. No part of the measly clay jars we call bodies can hold it in, and as we see with Jeremiah: “there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot” (Jer. 20:9).
Although we may grow weak and weary and although our wounds may seem fatal, the Lord says, “’Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death’” (Jer. 21:8), and for us Jesus Christ has already paved the eternal way of life (John 14:6). The wounds of beatings, mockery, isolation, and finally death did not prove fatal for Jesus Christ, and it is in his victory over sin and death that we have hope.
Today, we may wish to cry “uncle” and give it all up, but thanks be to God that the Holy Spirit within us will not give us up. The path of death has been removed for God’s children, so that no matter how disconnected we become from what we know – or how divergent our feelings are from that knowledge – we have already been lifted unto the way of eternal life.