Mental and/or physical suffering or discomfort caused by illness or injury.
All of us at some point have experienced pain. Maybe you are currently in a painful season. Or perhaps it is waiting around the corner soon. As we come into this sinful world, at birth we experience mental, emotional, and physical discomfort. Think about it.
In our mother’s womb, we were initially wrapped in a warm protective environment, sheltered from harm. All our basic needs were met. We stretched and twisted for exercise, slept endlessly, and kicked to show our disdain for anything that made us uncomfortable. Then, suddenly, we were abruptly evicted into a cold, cruel, sinful world under harsh lighting with no protection and few ways to communicate our angst. In an alien environment, depending on human adults to survive, we experienced our first tastes of pain.
Perhaps you have never really considered it, but we have been enduring pain since the day we were born. It starts from day one and it shapes and molds how we deal with pain for the duration of our life.
Throughout scripture, we find many examples of people who endured pain, sometimes for a short while and others for a lifetime. Most would probably agree that Job, who at one point lost almost everything he had, had it the worst. Some would contend that King David, who made grave errors in life which required deep repentance, had it worse. Yet others would choose Eve. After all, she experienced exile from the garden of Eden, experienced the full effect of pain during childbirth, and had to deal with the tragedy of one of her sons killing the other. Of course, we can’t forget the big one, the pain and suffering of Jesus.
I think we can all agree there are many choices that could be used. This week, however, I want to focus on the story of Jeremiah. Jeremiah, a prophet in the Old Testament, had a great calling on his life. He was set apart for this work from the very beginning of his existence.
The Lord gave me this message: “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:4-5 NLT
Yet, during his lifetime, he was destined to endure an enormous amount of pain.
At an early age, the Lord gave Jeremiah his mission – speak harshly to Judah, calling them into repentance for their many sins. Although Jeremiah felt he was too young, God placed His Words in Jeremiah’s mouth and promised He would be with Jeremiah through everything. God instructed Jeremiah to have no fear, to go where he was sent, and most importantly, to speak exactly what God gave him to say (Jeremiah 1:6-19).
Knowing that his mission was to proclaim the Lord’s wrath on Judah deeply pained Jeremiah. The visions of destruction that God revealed to him wreaked havoc within his heart. In distress, the Bible tells us Jeremiah constantly cried out for the people, hoping to turn God’s anger from them. Because the Lord loved Jeremiah, He gave Jeremiah an opportunity to save Judah despite their blatant misbehavior.
“Run up and down every street in Jerusalem,” says the Lord. “Look high and low; search throughout the city! If you can find even one just and honest person, I will not destroy the city. But even when they are under oath, saying, ‘As surely as the Lord lives,’ they are still telling lies!” Jeremiah 5:1-2 NLT
Judah’s last warning from God through Jeremiah comes in chapter six. Pleading with them, Jeremiah is unsuccessful in convincing them to turn from their sin. At this point, the Lord has determined His final judgement against Judah and there is no turning back. God tells Jeremiah:
“Pray no more for these people, Jeremiah. Do not weep or pray for them, and don’t beg me to help them, for I will not listen to you.” Jeremiah 7:16 NLT
And in that moment, Jeremiah’s burden for Judah leaves him heartbroken.
My grief is beyond healing; my heart is broken. Jeremiah 8:18 NLT
At this point, imagine the pain as well as the feelings of helplessness and despair that Jeremiah experienced because the people of Judah were so lost in their sin. Can you relate? I think we have all had someone in our life that we couldn’t save from their own destructive tendencies. Being able to do nothing more for them, all we could do was accept the circumstance and deal with the pain of knowing they would eventually pay for their mistakes and bad choices.
Jeremiah only wanted to do God’s work and see the people saved. He would press on, even when these same people plotted to kill him (Jeremiah 11). He would continue to mourn, cry, and pray to God for the people of Judah. And again, the Lord would refuse to listen.
Then the Lord said to me, “Do not pray for these people anymore. When they fast, I will pay no attention. When they present their burnt offerings and grain offerings to me, I will not accept them. Instead, I will devour them with war, famine, and disease.” Jeremiah 14:11-12 NLT
Over and over, Jeremiah would wrestle with the pain of defeat. He was constantly ridiculed and rejected by the people he loved. They were even willing to kill him, so they didn’t have to hear him anymore. Jeremiah would come to be known as the weeping prophet. He would live a life of solitude as he never married or had children. He had one focus – to attempt to save the people of Judah. In the midst of deep pain, he displayed great spiritual faith and strength by continuing to plead their case before God.
As you read through the book of Jeremiah, you will notice the prophet’s honesty as he wrestled with never ending mental anguish and despair as well as a humongous sense of failure in not being able to save the people of Judah. Through it all, God was with him. God never once left Jeremiah throughout his entire life. This is what gave Jeremiah hope in some very dark days.
Lord, you are my strength and fortress, my refuge in the day of trouble! Jeremiah 16:19 NLT
In the painful times in our life, we desperately need a sense of hope to hang on to and to be surrounded by people who can help us remember what real grace is and where lasting hope can be found.
Are you, like Jeremiah, someone who is attempting to bring hope to the world or are you like the people of Judah, stubborn, sinful, and turning a deaf ear? Do you take your pain to God like Jeremiah did or are you burying it? Are you able to navigate the pain of someone else traveling a road of destruction and allow God to deal with the situation? Or are you attempting to take on the other person’s pain? These are just some of the great lessons on pain that Jeremiah reveals.
Prayer: Most wonderful, loving God, we bring all our pain to You. We realize we cannot carry it all alone. When we try, we break. Help us to continue to live in Your love, which knows no bounds. Help us understand Your love will always carry us through anything we face, including our pain, our doubts, attacks by our enemies, and our day-to-day life in this sinful world we have been born into. We trust and love You Lord. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Written by Melony Henderson
Please note all scripture was taken from the NLT – New Living Translation
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.