He had been set apart to serve the Lord before he was born. Just as his ministry was beginning, God warned this 20-something novice preacher that his work would be 2/3 negative (uprooting, smashing, destroying, overturning) and only 1/3 positive (building up, planting). Prepare yourself, God said, because it’s going to be hard. Kings, priests, and ordinary folks will be furious with you every day for the rest of your life. They’ll fight you. They’ll hate you. But I’ll take care of you, and I’ll put my words in your mouth. Just be my spokesman.
And that’s what he was. He said everything God told him to say--preceded by, “Thus says the Lord!” And sure enough, it was a tough life. His family rejected him; his hometown friends despised him. He endured unjust trials, painful floggings, and near-starvation. He was locked into chains and stocks and threatened with death by murderous mobs. He dictated long messages from God to one loyal friend, who read the scrolls to the people, who reported them to the king, who sliced each scroll into fuel for his fire. Dungeons were his regular lodgings, but even they were luxurious compared to the muddy cistern where he was once lowered to live in suffocating filth.
Enough to cause some discouragement, don’t you think? And he did get depressed. He longed to run off to a desolate shack in the wilderness, far away from the mocking shame of his daily life. But the word of the Lord burned in his bones and he couldn’t abandon his call. He stayed put and pressed on—for 50 years.
I think it would have been hard to be Jeremiah’s wife. When a couple’s ministry is opposed, the wife faces a double-whammy: the sting of personal rejection plus the ache of seeing someone she loves suffer. During those 5 decades, Jeremiah’s wife wouldn’t have had many pain-free days. Maybe not even a single one.
So when God advised him not to get married, He was, as always, wise. But if Jeremiah had had a wife, and I could talk to her, here’s what I’d say: look past your pain to God’s purposes. Just look at what He is doing through your husband! He is God’s chosen mouthpiece to speak truth (even when he’s afraid) to people who need to hear it. And look at what God is doing in your husband! Those tears you see (when he’s discouraged) are less self-pity than compassion. They’re the overflow of a heart of love for people. A tough exterior with a tender core: that’s a weeping prophet. That’s a man God uses.
And it’s a man He comes close to. That long-ago preacher, so bold before other humans, was humble before his Lord. The hard circumstances of his ministry squeezed sweet, sad poetry from his soul, yet right in the middle of his most profound lamentations, in confident faith he suddenly sang, “It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness." Lamentations 3:22-23
If he could sing those words at that time, in that place, then when you’re asked to taste a bit of suffering you can sing them, too--even if you’re not Jeremiah the prophet, but Mrs. Jeremiah instead.
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