A couple of weeks ago I picked up an old notebook of mine and out slipped a 3×5 card with a bible verse printed on it. It was a verse from Jeremiah chapter one. It read…
“And I, behold, I make you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar, and bronze walls, against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests, and the people of the land. They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, declares the LORD, to deliver you.” (1:18-19)
Gosh, I love that verse. In fact, the entire first chapter of Jeremiah reads as one powerful strengthening word of God that commissions Jeremiah to God’s service. Just reading the words my soul is quickened and I want to join in God’s campaign to save the world.
They will not prevail against us! God will be our deliverer! He makes us a fortified city with bronze walls!
It is a beautiful chapter, but there are 51 chapters beyond those first words. 51 chapters that tell the story of Jeremiah’s obedience to God’s call, and though Jeremiah spoke the words of God the people did not listen. He was beaten and put in the stocks. He was sentenced to death. The King burned all Jeremiahs scrolls in a fire. He was left to die in an old cistern filled with mud. He was called a liar.
“I make you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar and bronze walls…. they will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you.”
I have to laugh a little, because it seems to me that being thrown into a muddy pit to die looks a lot like people have fought and prevailed. So much so that I can completely relate to Jeremiah when he says in Chapter 20,
“O Lord, you have deceived me and I was deceived; you are stronger than I and you have prevailed. I have become a laughing stock all the day; everyone mocks me (20:7).”
A few years ago I found myself in a place of complete disillusionment with God and his call on my life. He had put me in circumstances that I could not thrive in. I could not cope well under the stressors and I was angry. I fasted. I prayed. Until one day, alone in the shower, I told God that “if this was how he treated his kids, I didn’t want to be one anymore.” I didn’t want to be a Christian. God asked too much and he gave back too little. I wanted to walk away.
And then a miracle happened.
I woke up the next morning and my faith remained. Faith clung to me like a burr and no matter how much I wanted to walk away from God I couldn’t.
I can understand Jeremiah’s disillusionment at the words God spoke when he was faced with the reality of his own suffering.
I can also understand Jeremiah when he states, “If I say, I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name, there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot (20:9).”
I WANT the shelter of God to mean that I will not experience pain. I want it to mean that I won’t go hungry. I want it to mean that I won’t be sick. I want it to mean that fear won’t surround me. I want it to mean that words won’t hurt.
But it doesn’t.
My struggle with God is a struggle against my own world view and sense of fairness. My disillusionment and questions draw me closer to the truth of God and, let me tell you, there is sweetness to be found in those answers. God is better than I thought.
Because he truly is our shelter, but in a bigger, more spectacular way.
In those moments of anger and disillusionment when God has stripped my faith down to its bare minimum and I want to give up, I have seen the arms of God embrace my soul and keep me. Little by little that remnant of faith was nurtured and grown until it stood stronger, more stable, and brighter than before.
I am eternally grateful that our God is not a God who takes his ball and goes home when I throw myself on the floor in a hissy fit.
Not my Jesus.
Instead he purposefully and patiently leads me to delve deep into the struggle of my soul until I find his face, casting away the lies previously believed. God did shelter Jeremiah. God does shelter me daily.
And I trust him…not to keep me from pain and suffering… but to KEEP ME HIS!
There is nothing more precious than that.
Rest easy then, because today, God has made us a fortified city, an iron pillar and bronze walls. No matter where we are at this moment, he won’t leave us behind, but he will deliver us safely to the end.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (John 10:27-29)
Have you ever been disillusioned with God? How did God shelter you through that disillusionment? How was your faith transformed?