Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon gave Nebuzaradan captain of the king’s bodyguard special orders regarding Jeremiah: “Look out for him. Make sure nothing bad happens to him. Give him anything he wants.”Jeremiah 39:11-12 (MSG)
I can’t imagine it. Jeremiah has been preaching the destruction of Jerusalem for 38 chapters. He’s been beaten, hated, mocked, shunned, imprisoned, and thrown into a well for saying it’s going to happen. Now, he is witnessing the very thing he’s envisioned and proclaimed for years. He’s going to see all the bad things he prophesied come to pass. And, the King of Babylon himself is giving Jeremiah special protection, ensuring that Jeremiah will live to witness it. [Note to reader: the short book of Lamentations is Jeremiah’s poetic witness to Jerusalem’s destruction]
I would have to believe that Jeremiah’s heart was torn into shards. He would have wanted to gloat that he was right, but how can you do such a thing? Not only did he have the burden of proclaiming such a terrible thing, but now he has to witness the atrocities himself.
I don’t always understand God’s designs. I don’t know why God seemingly allows some to have a cake walk of a journey while others, like Jeremiah, are destined to walk through fire. I don’t fathom the mysterious dance of sovereignty and free will nor can I comprehend the continuous interplay of good and evil.
But if I say, “Forget it! No more God-Messages from me!” The words are fire in my belly, a burning in my bones. I’m worn out trying to hold it in. I can’t do it any longer!Jeremiah 20:9 (MSG)
Along the journey, we all reach places that feel like a dead end. Frustrated, exasperated, and at the end of our patience we feel like a ticking time bomb of emotions.
Jeremiah stands as a testament for all of us. Today’s chapter reminds us that we all hit a breaking point, and when we do it is perfectly acceptable to pour out our hearts to God. He is not surprised by our emotion. He is not deaf to our cries. God is big enough to handle the full onslaught of our anger, our frustration, our screams, and our tears.
Along the way, we will all need a healthy release of our our pent up emotions. Like Jeremiah, like David in the Psalms, like Jesus in Gethsemane, we sometimes need to plead our case and get out what’s bugging us. If we don’t, then it’s all going to spill out anyway. We can’t contain it. It just squirts out in unhealthy ways.
So I went to the potter’s house, and sure enough, the potter was there, working away at his wheel. Whenever the pot the potter was working on turned out badly, as sometimes happens when you are working with clay, the potter would simply start over and use the same clay to make another pot. Jeremiah 18:3-4 (MSG)
I recently spoke to a person who found themself on the road to crazy. Broken, feeling very much alone, and with their life scattered in so many pieces around their feet after it all fell apart in a tragic explosion of circumstance. There they stood holding on to a compass, but the needle was spinning uncontrollably in every direction. They couldn’t, in the moment, see the road out.
Consider yourself blessed if you never find yourself on the road to crazy. Consider yourself blessed if you do. I’ve been there. The circumstances were somewhat different than my friend, but they always are. There are a million paths in and out that intertwine like a maze.
“I can’t see why God has me here,” my friend said.
You never do, in the moment. That’s why Jeremiah’s word picture is so critical to hold onto. God uses broken things. He makes new things out of old. But, the clay must be broken down into a lump before it can be fashioned into a new vessel that can be used for new purposes.
The road to crazy is the place where God allows us to be broken down into a shapeless lump. The road back from crazy is where he begins to build us into something new.