Let’s be honest. Life can be difficult. Sometimes, it’s through no fault of our own. Other times it’s directly related to bad decisions we make.
For the Israelites of Jeremiah’s time, they brought the trouble on their own heads by turning their backs on God and going their own way. God told them,
Through your own fault you will lose the inheritance I gave you. I will enslave you to your enemies in a land you do not know, for you have kindled my anger, and it will burn forever. (4)
Jeremiah, on the other hand, was suffering through no fault of his own. Rather, he was suffering for doing exactly what God told him to do, preaching the Word to a stubborn and rebellious people.
God gave this word to the Israelites, but I think it was just as much for Jeremiah’s encouragement, when God told him,
Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord. He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives.
But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit. (4-8)
In saying this, God condemned the Israelites for trusting in themselves, but encouraged Jeremiah at the same time. Basically, he said, “Jeremiah, I know things are tough. But if you will trust in me and put your confidence in me, you will be blessed. Even though your circumstances seem tough, you will always be fruitful for me. Even if everyone else around you falls to these hard times, you will prosper.”
And God was as good as his word. Though Jerusalem would eventually fall, God delivered Jeremiah. Nebuchadnezzar himself gave orders that Jeremiah was to be taken care of and not harmed. (Jeremiah 39:11-14)
This is not to say Jeremiah’s life was easy and that he lived a life of leisure. But he was a man that lived a life that was fruitful despite everything that happened around him.
As we face the coming year, what difficulties are you going through? Are they coming because you’ve turned your back on God? Now’s a good time to turn back. To turn your back on your stubbornness and sin, and to start trusting God again.
Are things going wrong even though you’re following God? Keep trusting him. Don’t get discouraged. And like Jeremiah, you will see a life that is fruitful and makes a difference in this world.
Isn’t that what we all want?