Deacon Bob Evans
Cries of the Heart
Exhausted, they hurried away from the city and into the morning sunrise. They needed a place to hide; they could just see their village of Anathoth off to the north. But, they couldn’t go there; it would be too dangerous. As they stumble along, half dead, we hear Jeremiah cry out: “I hear the whisperings of many: ‘Terror on every side! Denounce! Let us denounce him!’” [Jer 20:10a].
The year is 603 BC. God had called Jeremiah to speak out vigorously against pagan worship that had spread throughout Judah following the Babylonian invasion. He warned that the Temple and all of Jerusalem would be destroyed if they didn’t change their ways. And for this, Jeremiah was reviled, condemned as a traitor, ridiculed by the people and frequently beaten, imprisoned and, once, thrown into an empty cistern to die.
Earlier, Jeremiah had entered the Temple where the head of the Temple guard recognized him. He had Jeremiah scourged, bound in shackles for the night, and then thrown out of the city. We hear Jeremiah’s bitter words as he and his young scribe, Baruch, fled Jerusalem seeking a place to hide.
God seeks to share with us our everyday experiences,
our joys and our trials. And, Jeremiah certainly had
plenty of trials to share.
The Book of Jeremiah gives us a look at what was the most troubled time in Hebrew history. And, more than in any other place in the Old Testament, the Book of Jeremiah gives us an in-depth look at a personal prayer life that made God an intimate part of his life experiences. God seeks to share with us our everyday experiences, our joys and our trials. And, Jeremiah certainly had plenty of trials to share. We’re fortunate that the Book of Jeremiah was written by his scribe, Baruch. For, he not only recorded what Jeremiah had to say to those around him, but he gave us a firsthand witness to Jeremiah’s personal dialog with God.
Jeremiah spoke very frankly and directly with God – in cries of the heart, not outbursts of blasphemy. And, God was equally direct with him. When he first heard God’s call, Jeremiah refused: “Not me, Lord—I’m too young, I don’t know how to speak well; they won’t listen to me!” [Jer 1:6]. God replied: “Don’t tell me you’re too young… you’ll speak what I tell you” [Jer 1:7]. Well, Jeremiah was right, they didn’t listen to him. Jeremiah survived and served as a prophet for more than 40 years.
Jeremiah experienced times of great joy, which he shared with God. And, he also shared great anguish with God. During his night of ordeal in shackles, Jeremiah shouted out: “I quit! You’ve duped me, Lord, … speaking your word has brought me derision and reproach all the day; get someone else” [cf. Jer 20:7-8]. Of course, Jeremiah didn’t actually quit; but he sure let God know how frustrated he was over his situation.
I really like Jeremiah; I wish I had been more like him when I was younger. When times were bad for him, when it seemed like he was nothing but a victim, Jeremiah expressed himself to God in frank and direct dialog. But, I turned away, became indifferent, sought comfort in denial. It took a long time for me to speak to God in the fully open manner of Jeremiah. It made a huge difference in my adult prayer life. There is an inner peace that comes with actually feeling the closeness of God.
If you’re in a time of trial in your life, if it seems that you’re a victim, that God has abandoned you, I hold up Jeremiah as the example. Just as Jeremiah cried out to God, you too can express frustration, even disillusionment, when there’s anguish in your life. Not in a manner that pushes God away, but rather moves you closer to the One who knows your anguish well. God already knows what you are going through, but He desires to share the experience with you. Just as He shared Jeremiah’s.
In times of trial, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact
that God does not inflict bad things on us. …
He helps us get through them.
In times of trial, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that God does not inflict bad things on us. Bad things happen. God will listen compassionately and help us get through them; just as He helped Jeremiah. But a cry of the heart requires being vulnerable, being open to the possibility that we won’t find immediate relief or hear what we think we need to hear. It requires being more confident in God than we are in our self.
When we feel like quitting, like retreating into our self, cry out as Jeremiah did. And, thank God we have the sacrament of Reconciliation. We’re blessed to be able to hear the priest give voice to God’s expression of love. Cries of the heart are heard by the One who is love.
‘Till next time.
Dcn Bob Evans
September 11, 2019
Jeremiah 1:6-7; Jeremiah 20:7-8; Jeremiah 20:10-13
My book, Walking the Parables of Jesus is now in print and is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Go to: http://enroutebooksandmedia.com/walkingtheparables/ And, thank you to those of you who have already purchased my book. Enjoy the journey into the words, life and times of Jesus.