I love the prophet Jeremiah. I love how open he is in sharing his feelings with God. In the two short sentences above, Jeremiah manages to ask God to be present and to punish his enemies, all while blaming God for putting him in this desperate situation! Reading the book of Jeremiah is almost like reading someone’s diary; you get to know the deepest parts of the person’s soul-- but here, it happens to be the soul of one who lived thousands of years ago.
So who was this Jeremiah dude, and why did he feel as if he could complain to God? Jeremiah, son of a priest, grew up in a village just north of Jerusalem. He lived and prophesied just before, during, and after the siege of Jerusalem by King Nebuchadnezzar, ruler of Babylon--about six centuries before the birth of Christ. Unlike other so-called prophets of the time, Jeremiah was a true prophet of God, in that he warned the people of Israel that if they did not repent of their ways (such as Baal worship, sexual immorality, and child sacrifice), God would smite them. Naturally, those in power tried to stop Jeremiah from prophesying doom and gloom by beating him, imprisoning him, and casting him into a cistern: “So they took Jeremiah and threw him into the cistern of Malchiah, the king’s son, which was in the court of the guard, letting Jeremiah down by ropes. Now there was no water in the cistern, but only mud, and Jeremiah sank in the mud.” (38:6) Poor guy! Nothing though, could stop Jeremiah’s call to be a prophet. After the fall of Jerusalem, Jeremiah was forcibly exiled to Egypt, along with other residents of Jerusalem. He continued to preach to the exiled in Egypt, and most likely died there (Lundbom, Jack R. The Hebrew Prophets: An Introduction, (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2010) , p.88).
As in any healthy and loving relationship between two people that allows safe space for the sharing of life’s deepest hurts and highest joys, Jeremiah obviously held a high level of trust in his relationship with God. Reading such ‘diary entries’ of this ancient Hebrew prophet helps to remind me that there is nothing I need to keep from God. There have been times in my life in which I have defended my complaining to God in this way: “Well, if the Bible--which is sacred scripture-- contains words of complaint to God, and God always forgives the complainer, then I trust that God will still love me unconditionally, even when when I complain--and like Jeremiah-- blame God for my predicament.” If you have never lifted in prayer a complaint to God, try it sometime. It’s like taking a load off your shoulders. Although I believe that God knows our prayers even before we offer them, God delights in our need to share our deepest pain. Even when they are prayers of complaint!
May the God who loves you unconditionally, be listening for your prayers this week!