“My joy is gone, grief is upon me, my heart is sick.” (Jeremiah 8:18)
One of the traits of the prophets is that they are willing to take on tasks that most other people would consider unattainable. But that does not mean they do not become heart sick when their purpose and mission seems to be for naught. That is the point that the prophet Jeremiah is at. The Divine knew and knows that it was a mission and task that would not have a joyful resolution. But the the warning had to be spoken and the people warned. It is no different today.
“Hark, the cry of my poor people from far and wide in the land: “Is the LORD not in Zion? Is her King not in her?” (Verse 19a)
The great irony is that now when the terribleness of their (that is the Hebrews/Israel) is upon them, they ask why Yahweh is not there to help them.
“(“Why have they provoked me to anger with their images, with their foreign idols?”)” (Verse 19b)
And the Lord God answers, why did they stray from proper religion in the first place? Why did they not listen and heed the prophets I sent them?
“The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” (Verse 20)
The Hebrews, the people of Israel have waited and waited for relief from their woes and troubles. They ask where the Lord God has gone, and why they are so forsaken. But, beloved reader, this a narrative played out by the writer of the book of Jeremiah. While telling the truth of what happened to the Israelites when the surrounding nations took them over, it is not an accurate representation of the sentiments of the people who lived then. Yes, they suffered. And yes, they were warned and given messages of hope for the future. But the words we read here are most accurately the suffering and despair that the writer of the book of Jeremiah felt and wrote about. It does not make it less true, but neither is in a message from the Israelites to us.
“For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt, I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored? O that my head were a spring of water, and my eyes a fountain of tears, so that I might weep day and night for the slain of my poor people!” (Verses 21 – 22, & chapter 9, verse 1)
It seems like every day in our modern newspapers and other forms of mass media we hear stories of suffering and despair. Things happen in our world, the news is sad, and we feel in our sinew and bones the pain and suffering. Anyone of us could tell the story of sorrow and lament, and ask why the Divine has allowed this to happen. Some wonder if it is our fault. Did we bring this upon ourselves? Would things been better if we had been more faithful? But then right on the heels of that lament is the question, faithful to what and who? Which faith tradition? Which group of faith tenets? I do not know of anyone who has the correct answer to it. Furthermore I suspect there is no truly correct answer. The best solution I feel is to just lament. And to pray. Not for speedy deliverance, but endurance and stamina. When the news and the world around us becomes saturated with loss, mourning, and despair . . . the best thing to do is cling to the Divine for the strength to endure. The Divine hears our laments, and while times may be grim, we have not been abandoned.
May you, beloved reader, find the balm that is our Lord God and in the Lord’s time may you be healed. Selah!