Jeremiah – a place of pain, a place of healing (@nicolahwriter)

‘My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain!

Oh the walls of my heart! My heart is beating wildly.

I cannot keep silent for I hear the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war.’ (Jeremiah 4:19-22)

So reads an excerpt from the prophet Jeremiah and as I read it this morning it struck me that this cry could still be repeated the world over. How many people woke up this morning to the ‘alarm of war’? Jeremiah’s writings, his pain and anguish, are the stuff of human life at its darkest. War, devastation, loss, pain and death. All things that make up our existence and all things we’d rather not think about too much, thanks!

Jeremiah

image from www.warehouse.org.za

Jeremiah is writing when his city, his nation, is crumbling around him. The Babylonians are at the door, Jerusalem is under siege. Jeremiah predicts that the city will be destroyed and the people carried off into exile and they are. The reverberations from this cataclysmic event can be felt throughout the Old Testament. It is the axis on which the self understanding of the ancient Israelites turns. They are the lost people, the wandering ones, longing and hoping for home.

‘Is there no balm of Gilead? Is there no physician there?

Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored?’ (Jeremiah 8:22)

The tone of Jeremiah is one of loss and despair and this, I feel, is often an under explored emotion in both church and society today. With so much emphasis on the pursuit of happiness and fulfilment we easily forget that sometimes it makes sense to stand and weep. To look at the world and be deeply unsatisfied and in pain. To feel your own losses for what they are, deep and perhaps unhealed.

I know that I daily face this challenge. In a strange way it is the courage to be weak. The strength to acknowledge things as they really are even if that means admitting how broken we really are. It takes courage because it raises questions of faith, the big resounding ‘Why?’ in the face of human suffering. But it is here, I believe, where the depths of real faith are forged.

Jeremiah’s writings gave voice to a generation exiled from their homes, who saw their city burned before their eyes. His writings have gone on to give exiled peoples, whether physically or in the darkness of their own loss, a place of expression and a place to begin to heal again.

As the prophet writes,

‘Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me and I shall be saved; for you are my praise.’ (Jeremiah 17:14)

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