How long will the land lie parched and the grass in every field be withered? ...If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?Jeremiah 12:4a-5
Jeremiah cries out to God with some troubled questions on his mind. These are the standard questions people ask when things begin to go wrong in an individual life, or
in the life of a community, or a nation. I heard recently that a very well-known and well-liked high school girl disappeared mysteriously a few days before, and no one knew where she was. All her high school friends were praying for her. She was a Christian, and they were sure that God would protect her. But word came that her body had been found. She had been abused and killed. These young people were stunned, and they were asking the same question:
Why? If there's a God of love and power, why couldn't he have done something about it? If he is a God of power, he could act. If he is a God of love, he would want to act. Why does he sit there and let things like this happen? That is one of the great questions thrown at our faith. It is for this very reason that Jeremiah was crying out to God.
God's response is very interesting. In essence, God says,
Jeremiah, what are you going to do when it gets worse? If these kinds of things throw you, if your faith is challenged and you are upset and you cry out to me and ask these questions, what are you going to do when it gets very much worse? Then where are you going to turn? What are you going to stand on then? If you have been running with the men on foot and have gotten tired, then what are you going to do when you have to run against horses? And if in running through the open prairie you fall down, what are you going to do when you have to struggle through a hot, sweaty jungle, whose thick growth impedes your progress in every way? These are searching questions, are they not?
We know that Jesus said that, as we near the end, there will come earthquakes and famines and wars, with nation rising up against nation, and that frightening things in the sea — the roaring of the waves — would make men afraid. And he called all this
the beginnings of sorrow — merely the beginnings of sorrow. God's question to Jeremiah — and to us — is,
Now, if faith grows cold and faint and weak in the midst of the pressures of today, what are you going to do when it gets worse? How will you compete with horses, when you give in against men on foot?
Well, Jeremiah expected God to lift the burden. I think most of us are due for a shock in our Christian lives when we reach that stage in Christian development in which we
expect God constantly to work out our problems on easy terms ... and then one day he doesn't do it! That is always a shocking time to us, but that is where Jeremiah is right now. God does not say,
Don't worry, Jeremiah, I'll work out your problems. I'll take care of everything. You won't have any more strain. Go right back to work. He says,
Jeremiah, it's going to get worse, a lot worse; what are you going to do then?
Lord, grant me the strength I need to be prepared for whatever may come my way. I know I don't have the strength within myself to endure, but you can strengthen me to even manage in the thickets by the Jordan.
God does not coddle our fears with false promises. Are we establishing habits of trust today that will carry us through the increasing hardships and tests of tomorrow?