(The Faith Forum Series- Batch 8)
Does being a believer and therefore having relationship with God through his Son Jesus Christ, mean that a Christian will always be on cloud 9? Should he or she be?
When we say that someone is on cloud 9, we mean that he is in a state of bliss, elation and happiness. There is a misconception by some though, that once a person makes a profession of faith and claims to be surrendered to Christ, that that person will go on basking in perpetual sunshine, always wearing a smile on his face and that there will be no problems, no obstacles and no hardships to deal with in moving forward. They give the impression and even teach, that that person will know nothing but bliss and will be perpetually skipping from mountain to mountain, never having to go through any valley experience ever again. They will experience nothing but glorious sunshine for the rest of their lives, just willing and declaring anything they want with their mouths and the Lord, who they erroneously believe exists to serve them, will just grant it. If they want a spouse, a car, a house, more money, a promotion or whatever, God will just grant it and they will never have to suffer ever again or feel saddened by anything in life, anymore.
These people sell a lie and people buy it, wholesale, as it does not line up with what the Bible says about the Christian and suffering and sacrifice.
Then there are others that think that if any problems arise, these will never so affect a genuine believer and professer of the Lord Jesus Christ, that he ever gets to the place where he feels down-in-the-dumps or sad. Indeed, they take the view that sad will never be part of the genuine Christian’s experience or vocabulary ever again and having low moments will be a thing of the past! If the opposite proves true in the life of a person who has professed faith in Jesus, they jump to the conclusion that it must mean that that person’s profession was false and therefore, that he was never genuinely saved.
This is the thinking of many but is it really so? Ironically, if the people who hold this view are honest with themselves, they will admit that at times, they themselves have gone through down moments in their own life. They too have felt sad and overwhelmed by life.
As a believer that has been through much in life: the good, the bad and the ugly, I can tell you firsthand, that the view of perpetual sunshine and always feeling happy once a Christian, is not true of any Christian, no matter how many years they have been in the faith or how spiritual they may be.
Yet, some take the view that once a believer is spiritually mature and walking closely with the Lord, that that believer will always be in a state of bliss, always cruising on cloud 9, no matter what life throws. They then conclude that if a believer is not in this upbeat mood all the time but actually experiences periods of sadness, anxiety, fear and weariness, that he must not be where he should be in the Lord or not be mature spiritually. Any kind of sadness is then regarded as an indication of that person’s lack of a close walk with the Lord.
Again, this is the thinking by some but is it the case? Is it reasonable to expect a Christian to wear a smile on his face every day and every moment of every day?
I submit to you that it is not.
The fact of the matter is that the most devout, holy and spiritually mature Christian, has his up days and his down moments. No Christian, if truly honest, walks around every day, every hour and every minute of every day in an upbeat, cheerful and jovial mood.
Life happens and as human beings, although we are Christians and therefore have an everlasting hope, we have emotions and moods, which are largely influenced by what is happening around us. As a Christian, thankfully, we never lose our hope in Jesus Christ and the joy that he gives which is permanent but we are not ALWAYS happy.
I think that people often make the mistake of regarding happiness as being the same as joy but they are different. A Christian that is truly indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God always exudes joy but he is not always happy. Personally, I have been joyful within and am always joyful no matter what life throws at me because of the confidence I have in Christ but yet, I have experienced bouts of sadness due to things happening in my life that I did not like, that took me off guard, that broke my heart, that resulted in my disappointment, that upset me to the core and that even made me weary of life itself.
Any Christian that gives the impression that he is always happy, always on cloud 9, never has a bad day and never grows weary of the challenges of life is lying. Christians are not exempt from feeling this way and especially given that there is an enemy of our soul out to get us, there are days that we will be tired, want to throw in the towel, feel overwhelmed by what we face, whether it be grief due to some disappointment, some heartbreak, some loss, deprivation or some kind of news that we have received that is not at all pleasant.
This is how we are as human beings, whether we are Christians or not. The difference though is that no Christian ever loses his joy and even when we feel down in the dumps and weary of our existence at times, even when the pain of whatever we may be going through, seems unbearable, we have the Lord Jesus Christ with us. He has promised to never leave us or forsake us and he does not renege on this promise. Whatever we are going through, he is there for support, encouragement and sometimes chastening and rebuke, calculated to make us spiritually better. When we feel down-in-the-dumps, he is there to pick us up and out of that place, whether through comfort, rebuke and conviction for some wrong we have done or encouragement. He reminds us to put our trust in him and his power, even when we don’t understand what is happening and to rely on his strength, even when we feel we have no more of our own to go on.
The Christian is therefore equipped through the Holy Spirit, to go through and get through life’s adversities, whatever they may be, for he is more than a conqueror through Jesus Christ (Romans 8:37). Although he will have bouts of sadness, he will not stay feeling down or depressed for days and weeks on end.
Ongoing depression is in my view, an indicator that a person is not truly saved, for, even for the Christian going through one upheaval after another and unimaginable turbulence, the joy of the Lord will be his strength. Even if feeling down a bit, the Comforter will come and brings words of comfort, through the Word of God. Prayer will strengthen that Christian and the promises of God, along with thoughts on the faithfulness of his character, will keep him or her hopeful.
Even as David in 1 Samuel 30:6-9, encouraged himself in the Lord after he had grieved his predicament for a while, then rose up from being down-in-the-dumps and sought the Lord for help and guidance before going on to be victorious over his situation, I believe that the same is true of how the believer will operate. Whatever he is going through, he may even find that a song of praise still makes its way to his lips and before he can fully process what is happening, due to the joy in his soul, he finds strength to sing one song of praise after another to the Lord, right there in his situation.
God is not content to wait until we have overcome an obstacle or problem to be given praise. He wants his children to praise him even in the midst of their valley situations and because his Spirit indwells them, they may often be stirred up to do just that, in the midst of their troubles.
The Christian is different from the world therefore, in that he does not stay feeling down or sad and is not depressed perpetually. He can never be because of who indwells him and because he knows and serves and is loved by the God of all hope.
However, the Christian WILL have bouts of sadness, down days and low moments. He WILL have days where life seems to be throwing more than he can take and he WILL at times, because he is such a weakling, feel overwhelmed.
This is not at all an indictment on the Christian’s spirituality, as some try to make people believe. As stated before, if they themselves are honest, they themselves are never 100% happy all the time. Anybody who gives this impression is doing it for show, due to their pride, trying to make people believe that they are never sad, troubled, anxious about anything, scared or weary of life and its many problems and unknowns but always in control, always optimistic, always smiling.
It is not farfetched for a man or woman of God, a Christian, to be spiritually mature, walking closely with God, serving him and generally pleasing him with the life that he lives but to have pit seasons in life that make him feel sad and down-in-the-dumps.
We can see this in the Word of God. Believe it or not, in the Bible, even great men of God, had their low moments. Even great men who walked closely with God, who were considered to be spiritually mature and were submitted to him, had things happen in their life that threw them for a hoop, so-to-speak, that made them feel sad, overwhelmed, weak and so weary, they wanted to throw in the towel. They did not want to continue fighting because they were tired of what they were dealing with. In short, what they were facing seemed to them in those moments, to be too much for them to take, them desiring to escape it all through death.
Four (4) such men were Moses, Job, Elijah and Jeremiah. Let us take a brief look at each of them.
MOSES – SPIRITUALLY MATURE BUT FELT OVERWHELMED BY LIFE
Moses was a man who God chose to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt and on the way to the Promised Land. He was a man that God was generally pleased with, so much so, that he did not speak to him through a vision as one would normally expect with a Prophet but “…mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold.” (Numbers 12:8).
The Word of God also gave Moses high commendation, describing him as “…very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth” and God himself referred to him fondly as “my servant Moses” and one that was “faithful in all mine house” (Numbers 12:3,7).
Undoubtedly, Moses therefore had a close walk with God and was spiritually mature. Yet, as an imperfect and weak man (a characteristic of all human beings), he had his down moments. Particularly, he found the constant complaining and faithlessness of the children of Israel while in the wilderness to be tiring and burdensome.
In fact, at one point, their behaviour so overwhelmed his spirit, that he was in a low place, asking God to take his life!
Although God had been providing manna from heaven for the children of Israel to eat, so that they would be sustained, they began to lust after the meat that they had eaten in the land of Egypt. As a result, they demanded that Moses do what was impossible for him to do, which was to give them meat and a wider variety of foods to eat.
Perplexed, at his wits end, tired of trying to appease these people and to get them to see how good God was to them, Moses plunged seemingly, into a moment of deep sadness.
In Numbers 11:4-6, it states of the Israelites:
- “And the mixt multitude that was among them fell a lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat? We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick: But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes.”
The Bible states that their behaviour displeased Moses. It underscored for him the fact that he did not want to lead these people. He longed to escape his God-given responsibility of overseeing and guiding them because they were so miserable and ungrateful in behaviour. They never seemed to learn, to grow, to remember what God had done for them in the past and to trust in his faithful character.
Moses was tired of being the punchbag, it seemed, whenever they saw the need to complain, which was almost always. He was tired of them accusing him, finding fault with him, complaining and badmouthing God through him. He was so fed up, that he reached a point where he felt that he could not take it anymore. He was at the end of his rope, so-to-speak and if leading them was to be his portion, he did not want to go on. He therefore asked God that if this was the case, for him to take his life.
Verses 11-15 state:
- “And Moses said unto the Lord, Wherefore hast thou afflicted thy servant? and wherefore have I not found favour in thy sight, that thou layest the BURDEN of all this people upon me? Have I conceived all this people? have I begotten them, that thou shouldest say unto me, Carry them in thy bosom, as a nursing father beareth the sucking child, unto the land which thou swarest unto their fathers? Whence should I have flesh to give unto all this people? for they weep unto me, saying, Give us flesh, that we may eat. I AM NOT ABLE TO BEAR ALL THESE PEOPLE ALONE, because IT IS TOO HEAVY FOR ME. And if thou deal thus with me, KILL ME, I PRAY THEE, out of hand, if I have found favour in thy sight; and let me not see my wretchedness.“
This tells me, that even for the child of God, people can so burden us, harass us, provoke us and frustrate us, that it can weigh heavily on our spirit, make us feel overwhelmed at times and even weary of our very lives. People can so burden and oppress us through their conduct, their constant finding fault and complaining, that this can have even the best of us feeling down at times, thinking that if this is to be our continued portion, that maybe if God were to end our lives, it might be better.
Notably though, Moses did not think of ending his own life but prayed to God asking that he do it, if there was to be no change in his situation. He understood therefore (although he was truly fed up of what he had to endure), that his life was not his to take. Similarly, the Christian understands that no matter what he is going through, that it is not his place to take his or her own life. Only God reserves that right, as the one that created him and all of humanity. The Christian may find himself longing to escape therefore (as some people with terminal illnesses that are quite painful do) and praying to God to do it but he would let God have his way, as taking matters into his own hands would be a sin.
Also, it is important to note that Moses did not just keep his issues bottled or locked up inside. He went to God with his problems and poured out exactly how he felt, to him. This is because even in our down moments, even when we are frustrated beyond measure and saddened to the core, the Christian knows that he still has prayer. He can still go to God who is available to listen to his troubles and able to make a change in the situation, no matter how forlorn it looks.
JOB – SPIRITUALLY MATURE BUT FELT OVERWHELMED BY LIFE
Job was a man that the Word of God describes highly, as “perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.” (Job 1:1). In fact, God was so pleased with his conduct and integrity, that he made a boast of him to satan. Verse 8 states: “And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?”
After Job had lost all of his wealth, his children, his health and each day passed by with him remaining in the same painful condition, understandably, trying to make sense of his pain, he genuinely wanted answers as to what he had done or where he had transgressed because honestly, he could not think of any sin that he had committed in his life to justify what he was going through.
However, no matter how much he tried, he could not pinpoint where his error lay and so felt frustrated that he could not understand, so as to repent. As far as he was aware, although he wracked his brain to try to figure out where God was displeased with him and had therefore allowed all of the adversity that had come into his life suddenly, he could think of nothing.
He endured the pain of the loss of his children, the loss of his wealth and physical pain and discomfort in his sickness. He lost the respect of those in society who once held him in high esteem and had people around him who (although they were supposed to be his friends, supposed to therefore understand what he was going through and encourage him in his grief), instead took on the role of miserable comforters, judging and insulting him without the facts and in so doing, pouring more salt into his wounds by accusing him of what he knew in his heart he was not guilty of.
Yet, perhaps, most painful of all was the fact that Job did not understand what God was doing and why he had allowed all the grief that he had allowed to come into his life and why he was allowing it to continue. To his mind, he had tried hard to do what was right and although he desperately wanted answers, God remained silent. He was therefore left in the dark and this was a great source of pain for him.
In Job 31, listing everything he could think of, examining his life for any sin of which he was guilty, he said:
- “If I have walked with vanity, or if my foot hath hasted to deceit; Let me be weighed in an even balance that God may know mine integrity. If my step hath turned out of the way, and mine heart walked after mine eyes, and if any blot hath cleaved to mine hands; Then let me sow, and let another eat; yea, let my offspring be rooted out. If mine heart have been deceived by a woman, or if I have laid wait at my neighbour’s door; Then let my wife grind unto another, and let others bow down upon her. For this is an heinous crime; yea, it is an iniquity to be punished by the judges. For it is a fire that consumeth to destruction, and would root out all mine increase.
- If I did despise the cause of my manservant or of my maidservant, when they contended with me; What then shall I do when God riseth up? and when he visiteth, what shall I answer him? Did not he that made me in the womb make him? and did not one fashion us in the womb? If I have withheld the poor from their desire, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail; Or have eaten my morsel myself alone, and the fatherless hath not eaten thereof; (For from my youth he was brought up with me, as with a father, and I have guided her from my mother’s womb;) If I have seen any perish for want of clothing, or any poor without covering; If his loins have not blessed me, and if he were not warmed with the fleece of my sheep; If I have lifted up my hand against the fatherless, when I saw my help in the gate: Then let mine arm fall from my shoulder blade, and mine arm be broken from the bone. For destruction from God was a terror to me, and by reason of his highness I could not endure. If I have made gold my hope, or have said to the fine gold, Thou art my confidence; If I rejoiced because my wealth was great, and because mine hand had gotten much; If I beheld the sun when it shined, or the moon walking in brightness; And my heart hath been secretly enticed, or my mouth hath kissed my hand: This also were an iniquity to be punished by the judge: for I should have denied the God that is above.
- If I rejoiced at the destruction of him that hated me, or lifted up myself when evil found him: Neither have I suffered my mouth to sin by wishing a curse to his soul. If the men of my tabernacle said not, Oh that we had of his flesh! we cannot be satisfied. The stranger did not lodge in the street: but I opened my doors to the traveller.
- If I covered my transgressions as Adam, by hiding mine iniquity in my bosom: Did I fear a great multitude, or did the contempt of families terrify me, that I kept silence, and went not out of the door? Oh that one would hear me! behold, my desire is, that the Almighty would answer me, and that mine adversary had written a book. Surely I would take it upon my shoulder, and bind it as a crown to me. I would declare unto him the number of my steps; as a prince would I go near unto him. If my land cry against me, or that the furrows likewise thereof complain; If I have eaten the fruits thereof without money, or have caused the owners thereof to lose their life: Let thistles grow instead of wheat, and cockle instead of barley. The words of Job are ended.”
In the height of his grief because the pain only continued from day to day without reprieve, even as he remained devoid of answers as to why, Job found himself in a low place of overwhelming sadness. He was tired of living the way that he was living and feeling the pain that he was feeling and he got to the point where he wished that God would take his life and that he had never been born. Pouring out his complaint, he stated:
- “Oh that MY GRIEF were thoroughly weighed, and my calamity laid in the balances together! For now it would be HEAVIER THAN THE SAND OF THE SEA: therefore my words are swallowed up. For the arrows of the Almighty are within me, the poison whereof drinketh up my spirit: the terrors of God do set themselves in array against me…Oh that I might have my request; and that God would grant me the thing that I long for! Even that it would please God to destroy me; that he would let loose his hand, and cut me off! Then should I yet have comfort; yea, I would harden myself in sorrow: let him not spare; for I have not concealed the words of the Holy One. What is my strength, that I should hope? and what is mine end, that I should prolong my life?
- To him that is afflicted pity should be shewed from his friend; but he forsaketh the fear of the Almighty. My brethren have dealt deceitfully as a brook, and as the stream of brooks they pass away…ye see my casting down, and are afraid. Did I say, Bring unto me? or, Give a reward for me of your substance? Or, Deliver me from the enemy’s hand? or, Redeem me from the hand of the mighty? Teach me, and I will hold my tongue: and cause me to understand wherein I have erred. How forcible are right words! but what doth your arguing reprove? Do ye imagine to reprove words, and the speeches of one that is desperate, which are as wind? Yea, ye overwhelm the fatherless, and ye dig a pit for your friend (Job 6:2-4, 8-11, 14-15, 21-27)
- As a servant earnestly desireth the shadow, and as an hireling looketh for the reward of his work: So am I made to possess months of vanity, and wearisome nights are appointed to me. When I lie down, I say, When shall I arise, and the night be gone? and I am full of tossings to and fro unto the dawning of the day. My flesh is clothed with worms and clods of dust; my skin is broken, and become loathsome. My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, and are spent without hope. O remember that my life is wind: mine eye shall no more see good…Therefore I will not refrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul. Am I a sea, or a whale, that thou settest a watch over me? When I say, My bed shall comfort me, my couch shall ease my complaints; Then thou scarest me with dreams, and terrifiest me through visions: So that my soul chooseth strangling, and death rather than my life. I loathe it…”(Job 7:2-7, 11-16).
- “My soul is weary of my life…I will leave my complaint upon myself; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul. I will say unto God, Do not condemn me; shew me wherefore thou contendest with me. Is it good unto thee that thou shouldest oppress, that thou shouldest despise the work of thine hands, and shine upon the counsel of the wicked?…Thou renewest thy witnesses against me, and increasest thine indignation upon me; changes and war are against me. Wherefore then hast thou brought me forth out of the womb? Oh that I had given up the ghost, and no eye had seen me! I should have been as though I had not been; I should have been carried from the womb to the grave.” (Job 10:1-3, 17-19).
In Chapter 23, he also asked:
- “Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery, and life unto the bitter in soul; Which long for death, but it cometh not; and dig for it more than for hid treasures; Which rejoice exceedingly, and are glad, when they can find the grave? Why is light given to a man whose way is hid, and whom God hath hedged in? For my sighing cometh before I eat, and my roarings are poured out like the waters.” (Job 23:20-24)
Job’s experience tells me that as Christians, no matter how spiritually mature we are, we may do what is right in the sight of the Lord and still suffer immensely in our lives and this can be a source of deep sadness for us. It is especially the case when we are surrounded by people who intensify our pain, taking on the role of miserable comforters and jumping to the worst conclusions, when we did not even ask for their help, advice or “comfort” and when we ourselves don’t understand why God is allowing us to go through what we are going through, sometimes for shamefully prolonged periods, yet they demand answers. It can make us feel down, as if life is not worth living, especially when we see the ungodly living wickedly and seemingly prospering.
Job felt this way. He stated:
- “I am as one mocked of his neighbour, who calleth upon God, and he answereth him: the just upright man is laughed to scorn. He that is ready to slip with the feet is as a lamp despised in the thought of him that is at EASE. The tabernacles of robbers PROSPER, and they that provoke God are SECURE; into whose hand God bringeth ABUNDANTLY…
- Wherefore do the wicked live, become OLD, yea, are MIGHTY IN POWER? Their seed is ESTABLISHED in their sight with them and their offspring before their eyes. Their HOUSES ARE SAFE FROM FEAR, neither is the rod of God upon them… They send forth their little ones like a flock, and their children dance. They take the timbrel and harp, and rejoice at the sound of the organ. They SPEND THEIR DAYS IN WEALTH , and in a moment go down to the grave. Therefore they say unto God, depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways. What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? and what profit should we have, if we pray unto him?” (Job 12:4-6; 21:7-15)
Asaph also felt this way in Psalm 73. Initially, he thought that his righteous living had been but a waste as he had still inherited a great deal of suffering, while the wicked prospered. He said, “Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency. For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning.”
Thankfully though, his perspective changed when he thought on the reality of the situation and on eternity. The ungodly were condemned to a lost eternity but he would be received to glory. In light of this truth, no matter what he faced in this life, he realized that living for God was best, as it resulted in the best outcome. He realized that it was he that was blessed and the ungodly, who one day would be cast down into destruction, that were cursed, no matter what they amassed here on earth (Psalm 73:17-24).
Job too realized this. After talking about the seeming life of comfort that those who had no relationship with God experienced, he continued:
- “How oft is the candle of the wicked put out! and how oft cometh their destruction upon them! God distributeth sorrow in his anger. They are as a stubble before the wind, and as chaff that the storm carrieth away. God layeth up his iniquity for his children: he rewardeth him, and he shall know it. His eye shall see his destruction, and he shall drink of the wrath of the Almighty. For what pleasure hath he in his house after him, when the number of his months is cut off in the midst?…
- The womb shall forget him; the worm shall feed sweetly on him; he shall be no more remembered; and wickedness shall be broken as a tree…Though it be given him to be in safety, whereon he resteth; YET his eyes are upon their ways. They are exalted for a little while, but are gone and brought low; they are taken out of the way as all other, and cut off as the tops of the ears of corn.”(Job 21:17-21; 25:20,23-24)
Notably, in Job’s case, although like Moses, he got to a place in his life where he was weary of his life, he poured out how he felt. He did not keep it bottled up inside and he was honest with God about how he felt in his vulnerable moments, while remaining respectful. Although he wished he had not been born, he did not take matters into his own hands and curse God (as his wife encouraged him to do) or end his life. Like Moses, he knew his place as a mere human being and understood that the latter was not his call to make. It was his Creator that would decide how long he should live and when his time on earth should be up. As painful as every breathe he breathed must have been therefore and that he expressed the desire to escape it all through death, he understood that his place was to remain subject to the mighty hand and will of God, even if it was a hand and will that was seemingly allowing so much suffering in his life.
ELIJAH – SPIRITUALLY MATURE BUT FELT OVERWHELMED BY LIFE
The Prophet Elijah was a man that God used so mightily, that when he prayed for God to answer by fire, in the sight of all the people, God did (1 Kings 18: 24,30-39). Also, when he prayed that he would refrain from sending rain, God refrained.
1 Kings 17:1 states, “And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.” In James 5:17, in speaking of Elijah, James stated, “Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.”
Elijah was therefore in good standing with God and a Prophet that God chose to speak and operate through. Yet, in 1 Kings 19, after he had received a death threat from Jezebel, Ahab the king’s wife, Elijah panicked and ran in fear for his life, getting to the point where, in weariness in the wilderness, he asked God to end it.
The scripture reads:
- “Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by to morrow about this time. And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beersheba, which belongeth to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.” (1 Kings 19: 2-4)
This account of Elijah reminds me, that although as Christians, we may do great exploits for the Lord and God may choose to do supernatural workings through our lives for HIS glory, there are times still, when as Christians, life’s challenges may intimidate us, we may entertain bouts of fear, panic and become tired of the faith fight. None of us are exempt.
After doing great exploits for the Lord, we may find ourselves, like Elijah, in the wilderness and all that we have been fighting against may take its toll, us feeling tired, fearful and even longing at times for home.
The fact of the matter is that the world is dangerous, wicked, in mutiny against God and all he stands for and often times, we will find ourselves caught in the cross-fire. On many a day we may fight as empowered by the Lord, valiantly as good soldiers but there are some days when we may not feel like fighting and where, like Elijah, we may be tempted to just give up and give in, even wishing that God would deliver us from our misery by ending our lives.
We must however, never throw in the towel but “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto” we are called “and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.” We must “endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” (2 Timothy 2:3) and “reaching forth unto those things which are before”, “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
JEREMIAH – SPIRITUALLY MATURE BUT FELT OVERWHELMED BY LIFE
Although Jeremiah operated in a time when there were many people falsely claiming to be prophets of God, he was a true Prophet of God. God often used him to communicate his wishes, how he felt and his messages to the people of Judah. Jeremiah therefore walked closely with the Lord, was in constant communication with him and was spiritually mature.
He was so special to the Lord, that, before he was even formed in his mother’s womb, the Lord had ordained him to be a Prophet and to faithfully serve him in this regard.
In the book of Jeremiah 1: 4-10, Jeremiah himself stated, of an encounter he had had with God:
- “Then the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. Then said I, Ah, Lord God! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child. But the Lord said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak. Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord. Then the Lord put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the Lord said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth. See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.”
Jeremiah therefore had a mighty purpose and a mighty calling on his life. The Lord intended to use him as his mouthpiece and he did, to speak continually to the children of Judah.
Yet, while the people who walk around today falsely calling themselves prophets, think of such a position as one that will bring them prestige and make them honoured and glorified in the eyes of men and that their role, in order to maintain popularity and to continue to be liked, so as to get money from the people, is to tell them nice things or whatever they want to hear and to provide them with false promises of good things that will happen to them and of all the riches and promotion that they will get from God, Jeremiah, as a true Prophet of the Lord, experienced what many of the true Prophets of the Lord back then experienced.
He had messages from the Lord to declare, truthful messages, which of necessity, contained God’s displeasure for their sin, that they needed to humble themselves, turn away from their wrongdoing and repent but the people, stubborn in their own way and rebellion, did not want to hear. They, including the false prophets, therefore hated Jeremiah and considered him a pest. As a result of the truth that he was declaring, they punished him in different ways, trying to silence him.
In Jeremiah 14: 13-14, seeing the tragedy that was unfolding, where the people were listening to the false prophets and all of their false assurances of peace and good things, as opposed to the wrath of God and judgment, which were sure to come unless they repented, Jeremiah said:
- “Ah, Lord God! behold, the prophets say unto them, Ye shall not see the sword, neither shall ye have famine; but I will give you assured peace in this place. Then the Lord said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart.”
Ezekiel, another true Prophet of the Lord, experienced the same thing as Jeremiah. When he told the people the counsel of God, communicating to them, not his words or what he wanted but what the Lord had put in his mouth to say to them, they did not believe him and therefore ignored him.
In Ezekiel 20: 40-49, Ezekiel stated:
- “Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, set thy face toward the south, and drop thy word toward the south, and prophesy against the forest of the south field; And say to the forest of the south, Hear the word of the Lord; Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will kindle a fire in thee, and it shall devour every green tree in thee, and every dry tree: the flaming flame shall not be quenched, and all faces from the south to the north shall be burned therein. And all flesh shall see that I the Lord have kindled it: it shall not be quenched.Then said I, Ah Lord God! they say of me, Doth he not speak parables?”
Jeremiah was therefore grieved. He was grieved as he knew that what he was saying to the people about the coming judgment of God was true and sure but they would not listen. He was grieved as, unlike Jonah, he genuinely wanted to see the people, God’s people, repent and return to the Lord. He did not want to see them punished. He was grieved as well, as while he wanted what was best for them, they hated him and positioned themselves as his enemies, persecuting him and causing him to suffer, simply because he spoke in obedience, what the Lord told him to say.
Being a Prophet of the Lord was therefore not for the fainthearted.
In Jeremiah 17:13-18, Jeremiah stated:
- “O Lord, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living waters. Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved: for thou art my praise. Behold, they say unto me, Where is the word of the Lord? let it come now. As for me, I have not hastened from being a pastor to follow thee: neither have I desired the woeful day; thou knowest: that which came out of my lips was right before thee. Be not a terror unto me: thou art my hope in the day of evil. Let them be confounded that persecute me, but let not me be confounded: let them be dismayed, but let not me be dismayed: bring upon them the day of evil, and destroy them with double destruction.”
In Jeremiah 18:11-12, it states, of what God told Jeremiah, who he continued to send to the people:
- “Now therefore go to, speak to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the Lord; Behold, I frame evil against you, and devise a device against you: return ye now every one from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good. And they said, There is no hope: but we will walk after our own devices, and we will every one do the imagination of his evil heart.”
This situation eventually got to Jeremiah at one point. The pain was too much for him to bear. He could not make the people listen and the people were making him suffer.
In Jeremiah 18:18-23, Jeremiah stated:
- “Then said they, Come and let us devise devices against Jeremiah; for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come, and let us smite him with the tongue, and let us not give heed to any of his words. Give heed to me, O Lord, and hearken to the voice of them that contend with me. Shall evil be recompensed for good? for they have digged a pit for my soul. Remember that I stood before thee to speak good for them, and to turn away thy wrath from them…Yet, Lord, thou knowest all their counsel against me to slay me: forgive not their iniquity, neither blot out their sin from thy sight, but let them be overthrown before thee; deal thus with them in the time of thine anger.”
In Jeremiah 37:13-16, it reads of Jeremiah’s ordeal:
- “And when he was in the gate of Benjamin, a captain of the ward was there, whose name was Irijah, the son of Shelemiah, the son of Hananiah; and he took Jeremiah the prophet, saying, Thou fallest away to the Chaldeans. Then said Jeremiah, It is false; I fall not away to the Chaldeans. But he hearkened not to him: so Irijah took Jeremiah, and brought him to the princes. Wherefore the princes were wroth with Jeremiah, and smote him, and put him in prison in the house of Jonathan the scribe: for they had made that the prison. When Jeremiah was entered into the dungeon, and into the cabins, and Jeremiah had remained there many days”
After he was removed from that place, he was again put in a dungeon at a subsequent time, simply for being truthful and faithful to God! In Jeremiah 38:6 it states:
- “Then took they Jeremiah, and cast him into the dungeon of Malchiah the son of Hammelech, that was in the court of the prison: and they let down Jeremiah with cords. And in the dungeon there was no water, but mire: so Jeremiah sunk in the mire.”
Thankfully, the Lord did not allow him to stay there and die but caused him to eventually be taken up out of the dungeon. However, Jeremiah had suffered immensely. Also, even when he was taken out from the dreadful dungeon, where he had had nothing to eat and no water, he was not allowed full liberty but had to remain in the court of the prison.
Verses 7-13 state:
- “Now when Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, one of the eunuchs which was in the king’s house, heard that they had put Jeremiah in the dungeon; the king then sitting in the gate of Benjamin; Ebedmelech went forth out of the king’s house, and spake to the king saying, My lord the king, these men have done evil in all that they have done to Jeremiah the prophet, whom they have cast into the dungeon; and he is like to die for hunger in the place where he is: for there is no more bread in the city. Then the king commanded Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, saying, Take from hence thirty men with thee, and take up Jeremiah the prophet out of the dungeon, before he die. So Ebedmelech took the men with him, and went into the house of the king under the treasury, and took thence old cast clouts and old rotten rags, and let them down by cords into the dungeon to Jeremiah. And Ebedmelech the Ethiopian said unto Jeremiah, Put now these old cast clouts and rotten rags under thine armholes under the cords. And Jeremiah did so. So they drew up Jeremiah with cords, and took him up out of the dungeon: and Jeremiah remained in the court of the prison.”
Given all that Jeremiah went through for the Lord, serving as a Prophet, not because he wanted to be one or because any earthly person made him one but because this was God’s calling on his life and so he had to be obedient in declaring the true counsel of God, there did come times when he felt down, saddened and overwhelmed. There were times when he grew weary, although he was faithful to God and was walking closely with him.
In fact, so burdened and low did Jeremiah feel at one point, that he wished he had never been born! In Jeremiah 20:1-2, it reads:
- “Now Pashur the son of Immer the priest, who was also chief governor in the house of the Lord, heard that Jeremiah prophesied these things. Then Pashur smote Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks that were in the high gate of Benjamin, which was by the house of the Lord…”
Later on, after he had still faithfully declared the word of the Lord to Pashur, in his pain, Jeremiah spoke about his troubles, asking the Lord to requite those who had punished him for declaring the truth. As he continued praying though, perhaps overwhelmed and weary by it all, feeling sad and down-in-the-dumps, he began to wish that he had never been born. He did not apparently see the use in a life that was so pursued after by those who hated the Lord and did not want to listen to anything he had to say. He did not consider his life to have been worthy of living, if all it involved was sorrow after sorrow.
Clearly at a low point, in verses 7:18 he stated:
- “…I am in derision daily, every one mocketh me. For since I spake, I cried out, I cried violence and spoil; because the word of the Lord was made a reproach unto me, and a derision, daily. Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.
- For I heard the defaming of many, fear on every side. Report, say they, and we will report it. All my familiars watched for my halting, saying, Peradventure he will be enticed, and we shall prevail against him, and we shall take our revenge on him. But the Lord is with me as a mighty terrible one: therefore my persecutors shall stumble, and they shall not prevail: they shall be greatly ashamed; for they shall not prosper: their everlasting confusion shall never be forgotten. But, O Lord of hosts, that triest the righteous, and seest the reins and the heart, let me see thy vengeance on them: for unto thee have I opened my cause. Sing unto the Lord, praise ye the Lord: for he hath delivered the soul of the poor from the hand of evildoers.
- Cursed be the day wherein I was born: let not the day wherein my mother bare me be blessed. Cursed be the man who brought tidings to my father, saying, A man child is born unto thee; making him very glad. And let that man be as the cities which the Lord overthrew, and repented not: and let him hear the cry in the morning, and the shouting at noontide; Because he slew me not from the womb; or that my mother might have been my grave, and her womb to be always great with me. Wherefore came I forth out of the womb to see labour and sorrow, that my days should be consumed with shame?”
Thankfully, Jeremiah found the strength to continue on from here and still went on to declare the word of God in subsequent chapters, although he was in so much pain. He understood that sometimes, God’s calling on our lives involve great suffering but because we are his servants, we must continue to serve and faithfully. In so doing, in suffering for doing what was right, his life did have purpose, even when he felt it didn’t, as he was bringing glory to God.
In 2 Peter 2:19-23, it gives insight into how God regards such a situation. It states:
- “For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously”.
In closing, believers will have down days because life is designed to throw us curve balls every now and then. We are equipped to handle anything and to get through anything victoriously but this does not mean that we will not have our low moments, our moments when our anxieties and fears and weaknesses get the better of us, albeit temporarily.
We ought not to feel guilty if we feel this way or operate in denial or feel the need, as many Christians often do, to continually put on a show to give people the impression that we are happy and on cloud 9 100% of every day and all the time.
Like Moses and Job, we must be honest with how we feel. We can tell God of our vulnerabilities, of our tiredness, that we hurt or that we feel confused when we don’t understand what is happening in our lives. Jesus encourages us to cast our burdens on him, not to keep them to ourselves and bottled up inside. He has the ability to bear our burdens and to strengthen us, in whatever we are going through.
In Psalm 55:22 it states, “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.”
In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus invited everyone, including those living in rebellion to God and who were therefore in need of a Saviour, saying:
- “Come unto me, ALL ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
This invitation is still open, for as long as God grants you breath. Whatever is your spiritual condition, whether you are saved but going through a rough patch right now because of life’s troubles or you don’t yet know Jesus Christ as your personal indwelling Lord and Saviour, wouldn’t you heed his invitation and come?
(Written on 8th December, 2022, added to thereafter)