“Contrary to what might be expected, I look back on experiences that at the time seemed especially desolating and painful with particular satisfaction. Indeed, I can say with complete truthfulness that everything I have learned in my seventy-five years in this world, everything that has truly enhanced and enlightened my existence, has been through affliction and not through happiness, whether pursued or attained. In other words, if it ever were to be possible to eliminate affliction from our earthly existence by means of some drug or other medical mumbo jumbo… the result would not be to make life delectable, but to make it too banal and trivial to be endurable. This, of course, is what the Cross signifies. And it is the Cross, more than anything else, that has called me inexorably to Christ.”
I’m reading a book by Eugene H. Peterson (translator of The Message) titled Run With the Horses right now… I don’t know if it’s intended as a chapter-a-day thought provoker and heart awakener, but that’s how I’ve found it to work for me. Today I read the 7th reading… “Pashur Beat Jeremiah.”
It’s quite natural to want to avoid “hard times,” isn’t it? I’ve certainly found that to be the case throughout my entire life, naively throughout my childhood and teenage years, and then with full-blown intention as I grew into a man, husband, and father. We come into life with parents who keep us from pain, who teach us not to touch the stove because it will burn us, and not to ramp our bikes over the creek because we might crash. I wouldn’t dream that pain upon my own son or family, either. But at the same time, at one point or another, we’re going to be introduced to the world of pain. Whether it’s through parents who decide “it’s time” and let us do what they know is not good for us but we’re dead set on doing, or whether it’s through running headfirst into the brick wall of life and discovering that marriage isn’t easy, a “career” is anything but security in life.
As I read this chapter, and from everything else I read of this book so far, I’m impressed by what a man Jeremiah had become. I find it intriguing to see where he got the affirmation he needed to go from the excuse of “I’m only a youth” to condemning the top-of-the-ladder man of the temple with a new name: “Terror on Every Side.” I can hardly wait to get to this book in my year-through-the-Bible reading plan this year, as I think it is shedding new light not only on Jeremiah’s ministry, but also on his person, his faith, his confidence, and above all, his God, who is also mine.
A few more quotes from this reading that hit home with me.
One group of people sees religion as a way to successful happy living; nothing that interferes with the success or interrupts the happiness will be tolerated. The other group sees religion as a way in which hurt, flawed, and damaged persons become whole in relation to God; anything will be accepted (mockery, pain, renunciation, self-denial) in order to deepen and extend that reality. One way is the way of enhancing what I want; the other way is a commitment of myself to become what God wants. (p. 86)
The task of a prophet is not to smooth things over but to make things right. The function of religion is not to make people feel good but to make them good… God does not want tame pets to fondle and feed; he wants mature, free people who will respond to him in authentic individuality. (p.89)
Truth is inward: we must experience within ourselves that which we profess. Truth is social: we must share with others what we profess. Statistics are a farce. Popularity is a smoke screen. All that matters is God. (p. 91)
Jeremiah was humiliated, but not intimidated. (p. 92)
We don’t have to like it. Jeremiah didn’t like it. He yelled at Pashur, and after he yelled at Pashur he yelled at God, angry, hurt, and somewhat bewildered that all this was happening to him (Jer 20:7-10). He didn’t like any of it, but he wasn’t afraid of it because the most important thing in his life was God – not comfort, not applause, not security, but the living God. What he did fear was worship without astonishment, religion without commitment. He feared getting what he wanted and missing what God wanted. It is still the only thing worthy of our fear. What a waste it would be to take these short, precious, eternity-charged years that we are given and squander them in cocktail chatter when we can be, like Jeremiah, vehemently human and passionate with God. (p. 93)