Jeremiah is the Biblical book for pastors going through rough stretches in their churches. Jeremiah knew something about hostility, resentment and push back when he spoke an unpopular word. His woes have a way of putting mine into perspective.
The unfolding story of Jeremiah’s faithful persistence encourages me. There were days when he despaired of the work he was called to, wishing he had never been born. The mockery he endures grates on him.
He complains, “O Lord. . . I have become a laughingstock all day long;
everyone mocks me.
For whenever I speak, I must cry out,
I must shout, ‘Violence and destruction!’
For the word of the Lord has become for me
a reproach and derision all day long.” Jeremiah 20:7b-8
Speaking truth to power, had more severe repercussions for the prophet: “So they seized Jeremiah, threw him into the cistern of the royal prince . . . within the prison quarters, and lowered him down by ropes . . . Jeremiah began to sink into the mud.” Jeremiah 38:6 CEB
In spite of mockery, public disdain, physical restraint and punishment, Jeremiah would not stop saying the words God had given him. He did that with people who neither took him seriously nor welcomed what they heard.
Only after the fall of Jerusalem in 587 BCE, with a city destroyed, did former mockers recognize the truth Jeremiah had been telling them was God’s truth. Only then, did they realize Jeremiah was frantically trying to protect them from the inevitable consequences of their folly. Only then, did they realize, how much grief, pain and heartache could have been avoided, had they heeded his warnings.
The temptation is to ignore realities we don’t want to hear about . . . Whether in our close relationships or on a National level. May we be wise in listening to truth tellers among us, and respond in ways that bring healing into the world.