Good Grief

Perhaps one of the verses that causes me grief at times is Jeremiah 1:17.

But you, dress yourself for work; arise, and say to them everything that I command you.  Do not be dismayed by them, lest I dismay you before them.  (ESV)

I say grief in the sense that the words prompt me to do a self-evaluation.  Jeremiah is being called to prophesy to the Israelites.  History records the Babylonians were coming swiftly from the North to invade and displace God’s people.  The message would be difficult to speak and even more difficult to hear.  God’s people were to be disciplined because of their unfaithfulness.

Much like Moses (Ex. 3), Jeremiah begins to tell God why he couldn’t deliver the message.  I’m young, inexperienced, scared, blah blah blah.  Excuse after excuse after excuse.  But God won’t let him off the hook.  In fact, God’s Word says Jeremiah was known before he was even in the womb.  He was consecrated.  This was his time.  No one else would do.

There have been times in my life when I chose excuses.  I’ve stayed where I was due to comfort.  I convince myself it’s easier to act (or fail to act) based upon what I know.  Therefore, I don’t do anything.  God’s peace is nonexistent because I’m out of His will.  There are other times when I’ve known I should have done a certain thing but chosen to do something entirely opposite.  Think Jonah.  He’s called to go to Ninevah and buys a ticket for Tarshish.  I can relate.  These are really rocky times.

Notice in the verse Jeremiah is told to “dress for work.”  His calling wouldn’t be fun.  It would bring blood, sweat, and tears.  But God doesn’t prevent those things when He calls.  Side note:  He didn’t remove the “cup” from His own Son.  What makes you and I think our calling should be less painful.  The prophet is then told to “say everything that I command you.”  Couldn’t I just say the big stuff?  In other words, why do I have to say everything?  This message is particularly hard.  And based on my experience, people don’t always like the truth.  Can’t we just sugarcoat this message God?  Make it go down easy?  I’m reminded Paul says there will come a time when people will be “lovers of themselves” (2 Tim. 3).  But God refuses to budge.  The message is the message.  The message is the truth.  And it’s truth that brings restoration and life (Jn. 14:6).  Finally, Jeremiah is told to not be dismayed by those to whom he speaks.  To do so would bring serious consequences.  I’ve known several leaders, teachers, and pastors who speak or teach in ways based upon fear of man, rather than God’s direction.  Recently, I heard of one church who doesn’t speak about hell, sin, God’s wrath – all because those things don’t allow people to feel good.  But reality is we need to hear truth.  We need to hear about our sin, our separation from God, and the consequences for our disobedience.  It’s only then we can fully appreciate God’s love, grace, and mercy.

I’m grateful God didn’t let Moses, Jeremiah, and Jonah “off the hook.”  I’m grateful that He calls us to speak the truth and allow people to decide what they will do with the truth.  Jeremiah 1:17 gives me grief.  But it’s nothing bad.  In fact, it’s a great blessing.  The charge is enormous.  But with God’s help, through the power of the Holy Spirit, boldness takes on a new way of life.

May we be found faithful and concerned more about God’s will rather than our own.  We can rest assured God will bless us if only we remain in His will.  Speak the truth boldly.  It’s only then will we be able to hear, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

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7 Responses to “Good Grief”

  1. Leah Alexander Says:

    Good post and good points.

  2. Mike, yes! Some grief is good and necessary. Jeremiah’s experience can be an example for all of us. Things will not go smoothly, but the Lord will be on our side when we’re in His will.

  3. Leah Alexander Says:

    I’ve been thinking and was wondering, Mike do you feel like you have to lean toward the more “grief” side of sharing or how do you handle it?

    I believe that people should be aware of the consequences brought about due to disobedience. However, it seems to me that many preachers will choose the all positive or the all negative side of things.

    Jeremiah was a messenger during a very disobedient time period. It would be like one of us going to a political party at this moment and speaking out against the person. People were set in their ways and was defiant. Jeremiah had a tough job at that time. Not all churches and people are going to torture the messenger in our lives.

    I was just wondering what your experiences and most difficult “truth” moments are when dealing with others.

    • Hmm. Leah, I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying. But I’ll give it a shot. I used the word grief in the post above to describe a tension. Too many times, I think people assume grief as a “negative” emotion. However, the kind of grief that is a Holy Tension is good grief.

      I, too, believe we should be aware of the consequences of sin. As I preach, I pray that I’m faithful to the text. In other words, there are times Scripture speaks of joyful things and times it speaks of troubled times.

      Although Jeremiah was the “Weeping Prophet” and definitely had a tough message to convey, he also has the chance to experience the joy of the Lord (Ch. 31 and 33 respectively). I hope those thoughts help.

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