Why has my pain been perpetual and my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Will You indeed be to me like a deceptive stream with water that is unreliable? Jeremiah 15:18 NASB
Deceptive – My daughter called from the Navy base. “Dad, I talked to the career counselor yesterday and nothing that they told me in the line shack was true. I’m not going to be able to move to another base for at least two years. Every day I woke up thinking that I would leave soon and get away from this job I hate, but I can’t. I always thought that God would provide but now it seems like He just left me here.” What do you tell your daughter? That life isn’t fair? That we often have to deal with circumstances that aren’t what we wanted or what we were promised? That God does things with us that we just can’t figure out?
Maybe the best advice is to turn toward Jeremiah. Here is a great prophet, a man of God, known throughout the ages for his calling and his faithfulness. But look what he says. “Have You deceived me, God? Have You tricked me into doing Your will all the while knowing that I would suffer for it? Why have You not taken away my pain and my wounds when I have done all You asked of me?”
The Hebrew verse doesn’t contain the word “stream” although it is implied in the context. The focus of the Hebrew text is on kazav. It’s a very strong word. It means, “to lie, to be found a liar, to be deceitful.” Used as a noun (‘akzav), Jeremiah might as well be saying, “God, are You a liar?” Before we repudiate Jeremiah’s implication, let’s consider the circumstances of his life.
Jeremiah’s message to Israel is about the faithfulness of God in spite of Israel’s apostasy. Jeremiah proclaims that God loves Israel with an everlasting love (‘ahavat ‘olam – 31:3) and that God implores Israel to return (shuv) to Him, repent and be restored. But just the opposite seems true in Jeremiah’s own life. Thompson points out that Jeremiah suffered unceasing pain and incurable wounds and YHWH seems to have compelled him to carry out a most difficult task against his own will. In fact, God refuses to allow Jeremiah to make his own choices in this regard. It might be perfectly legitimate for Jeremiah to say, “God, You lied to me. You tricked me. You promised one thing but delivered another.” And on top of that, God never relieves Jeremiah of his suffering until the day he dies. Jeremiah’s human reaction to such treatment is precisely the way we react. We all think God will take care of us because we do what He desires, but we never consider that God may have plans that include extreme difficulties for us.
I have a theory about situations like this. I believe that our suffering is a measure of God’s trust in who we are. We usually desire to have the life of those whom we consider “blessed,” and by that we mean lives of peace and comfort, satisfaction and fulfillment. But Peter clearly tells us that we should expect to share in the suffering of the Savior and Paul echoes the same perspective. God shields those whom He cannot trust to carry His heart burden by “blessing” them with easy living. He knows that if He took away His protective covering, they would fail. But for some, the ones whom God knows are capable of lifting His broken heart, the call is far more severe. Those are called to share in God’s own burden – and that means pain and heartache and unexplainable circumstances. For men and women like Jeremiah there is only one answer: God knows even if I don’t
I wonder if we don’t secretly reveal our deepest lack of trust in God when we pray for blessings and expect God to deliver them. I wonder what would happen in our lives if we asked God to trust us with His sorrow and pain. No, God didn’t lie. He let Jeremiah see His own agony. For most of us, that’s too much. But once in awhile Jeremiah comes again.
Topical Index: liar, ‘akzav, kazav, deceive, Jeremiah 15:18, suffering