Peace Found in Lament

O Lord, you have enticed me,
and I was enticed;
you have overpowered me,
and you have prevailed.
I have become a laughingstock all day long;
everyone mocks me.
For whenever I speak, I must cry out,
I must shout, “Violence and destruction!”
For the word of the LORD has become for me
a reproach and derision all day long.
If I say, “I will not mention him,
or speak any more in his name,”
then within me there is something like a burning fire
shut up in my bones;
I am weary with holding it in,
and I cannot.
For I hear many whispering:
“Terror is all around!
Denounce him! Let us denounce him!”
All my close friends
are watching for me to stumble.
“Perhaps he can be enticed,
and we can prevail against him,
and take our revenge on him.”
But the LORD is with me like a dread warrior;
therefore my persecutors will stumble,
and they will not prevail.
They will be greatly shamed,
for they will not succeed.
Their eternal dishonor
will never be forgotten.
O LORD of hosts, you test the righteous,
you see the heart and the mind;
let me see your retribution upon them,
for to you I have committed my cause.
Sing to the LORD;
praise the LORD!
For he has delivered the life of the needy
from the hands of evildoers. (Jeremiah 20:7–13 NRSV)

Jeremiah was a messenger of God’s justice and grace. He was known as the “Weeping Prophet” because his heart was so tender. God had called him to speak to Israel about God’s judgment on them. He warned them that if they didn’t turn from their ways, Jerusalem would be destroyed and they would be exiled to Babylon. Of course, Israel did not listen and Jeremiah’s prophecies came true. Even worse was that poor Jeremiah witnessed this exile personally and had to live through the awfulness of his predictions.
This text finds Jeremiah frustrated and discouraged once again. He works tirelessly, and his heart for people is constantly broken, and he does not see any change or hope for transformation.
Jeremiah sounds exasperated. He is preaching a life-and-death message, and no one cares. Not only do they not care, but they are mocking him. He wants to give up, and yet there is this burning inside of him that will not allow him to walk away. He is utterly exhausted and discouraged, but he simply can’t not continue. He carries the weight of God’s calling with him, and he knows he must keep going. He cannot deny God.
In his weariness and stress, Jeremiah cries out to God. He laments to him about his circumstances. He is vulnerable and honest about how he is feeling. Interestingly, it is in his protest that Jeremiah comes to a place of peace. He realizes God is with him. God sees everything in the hearts and minds of all people, and in his timing, God will move. It is through the act of lament that Jeremiah moves from despair to hope and realizes he needs to be faithful to his calling and his cause and allow God to be God. He seems to find great comfort in this and is even able to sing and praise the Lord.
If you are finding yourself in a similar situation right now, whether it be ministry, family, or something else, may I encourage you to bring your lament to the Lord. Bring your woundedness, discouragement, and perhaps even despair, and lay it out before him. In this offering and cry for justice, allow the Lord to minister to your heart and soul. It is in this place, with your soul laid bare, that you will find rest and peace in God’s presence. May you find healing and a renewed hope with Jesus that enables you to keep going. Shalom.
Deb Judas is part of the NAB Missional Initiatives Team, director of Formation with Forge Canada, and a member of the pastoral team at The Neighbourhood Church in Surrey, British Columbia.