The doubt behind the complaining

When our lives become embroiled in turmoil and crisis, quite naturally our thoughts can turn toward complaining. “Lord, I did not pursue a godless lifestyle. I have obediently exalted you in my life. Yet, I am suffering!”

What comes next might be conscious or subconscious. Regardless, God confronted it in Jeremiah’s life. Like him, our thoughts might turn inward accompanied by a lingering doubt. God also desires to confront this within our lives. In grace, God provided him and us with a guiding path forward.

In Jeremiah 15:10,15-18 we learn his self-centered thoughts comprised: 1) Regretting having ever been born; 2) Mulling over how he had successfully avoided evil while pursuing God; 3) Calling upon God to vindicate and rescue him; 4) Asking the inevitable “why” questions; and 5) Wondering whether he could rely upon God.

How many of these notions resonate with us when we suffer? In the midst of our complaints, can there not be a quiet doubt, whether fully conscious or not, wondering whether we can trust God in this situation?

Our thoughts can become tightly woven around ourselves. God, do you care enough about me to help? “Will you let me down when I need you, like a brook one goes to for water but that cannot be relied on?” (Jer. 15:18).

God crushes such a self-centered focus by pointing us toward the future. With Jeremiah, God called him to repent from such worthless thoughts and attitudes, while simultaneously encouraging him to focus upon the goal (Jer. 15:19).

For Jeremiah, God’s path forward involved calling the prophet to determine he would deny his troubles the capacity of driving him toward faithlessness. Rather, he was to pursue a path whereby the faithless around him might become like him, a man of God. Furthermore, God promised to strengthen him and be with him on this journey. For Jeremiah this journey would be about serving God and God’s purposes, not about himself.

To be sure, God’s prescription and promises in Jeremiah 15:19-21 were singularly designated for that ancient prophet. Nevertheless, the general tenure of those promises as well as God’s prescription for living have been given to us as well.

  1. Rather than allowing our situations, no matter how dire they might appear, to transform us into becoming godless, God calls us to lift our eyes to fulfilling our God-given purpose in reflecting his Son and in being his tool to transform others (Romans 8:29; Matthew 5:13-16).
  2. God promises to strengthen us and to be with us throughout our lives (Hebrews 13:5; Matthew 28:20; 1Peter 5:10 ).

Jeremiah might have expressed human thoughts and attitudes under duress with which we can identify. However, God both then and now points toward a healthy path forward. The doubt behind the complaints need not endure.

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Barry Newton

Married to his wonderful wife Sofia and a former missionary in Brazil, Barry enjoys trying to express old truths in fresh ways. They are the parents of two young men.

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