BLOG––Encouraged by Faith

Jonah and Jeremiah

Posted by April Bumgardner on

Much of my fatigue is emotional. Although my days are full and sometimes I don’t allow myself enough sleep, mostly I am tired from worry and stress. There isn’t an overwhelming tragedy in my life, but several hefty worries that feel oppressive. Can you relate?

I act as if I can and should be able to control my circumstances. I behave as if my spiritual health depends on whether or not I can “fix” certain problems in my life. The truth is, however, I live by grace alone. Grace should be, and is, enough for me, but in my faithless relapses, I stubbornly try to take over from God, denying his sovereignty and ignoring my brokenness.  

The Holy Spirit, however, has been breaking my heart, revealing to me the ways that I am incapable of saving others, myself included. They are painful lessons, and I am not enjoying them. Yet,  I am deeply grateful, because they are pointing me to the One, the only One, whose labor is redemptive.

We are not called to coerce others into right-thinking or behavior. We are unable to do that even for ourselves. God does not demand we correct the entire broken world. It took his son Jesus to do that. God calls us to be faithful, not necessarily to produce results. Specific results are beyond our realm and up to him. I doubt I would have the wisdom to choose what would be most needful.

I take comfort in the lyrics of “Diamonds in the Rough.” The late, great Gospel preacher Johnny Cash sang this song with his in-laws.

“The day will soon be over and digging will be done.
And no more gems to be gathered so let us all press on.
When Jesus comes to claim us and says it is enough
The diamonds will be shining no longer in the rough.”

Grace reverberates through these words. If it were up to me, I would be constantly striving, never feeling I had done enough. But Jesus has not called us to produce results, but rather to be faithful. This is the powerful lesson I hear resonating through the prophets, Jonah and Jeremiah. Jonah, whose heart was filled with bitterness, succeeded in bringing about the repentance of an evil empire. Jeremiah, who since his youth, deeply devoted himself to submitting to God’s words, failed to enlighten Judah as to their sin and the reality of an extended exile.

Yet in God’s eyes, the failings and the successes were turned upside down. Although Jonah’s preaching produced repentance in his hearers, he failed in cultivating compassion within his own heart. Jeremiah, though bogged down with depression and lament, was successful in his obedience to God, and faithful in following his word. Weighted with the pain of the Lord’s curses for Judah’s sin, Jeremiah also records God’s hopeful promises.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They 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.” (Jeremiah 17:7-8)

Judah is not shielded from the perils of heat and drought. They still remain. The blessings come from being planted in the proper place, drinking in the nourishment of the Spirit. God calls us to define success as staying rooted in him, not relying on our own efforts. He promises we will bear fruit.

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