When God genuinely calls you to ministry dealing with stubborn people who resist truth, it’s not always easy to cope. It can be downright discouraging sometimes and leave you at wit’s end. This is what the prophet Jeremiah faced during his powerful prophetic ministry and how he expressed his frustrations can teach us a lot.
In Jeremiah 15:15-21, the prophet was already seasoned in his ministry, had a close relationship with the Lord, and had witnessed God’s work through visions and parables, but he still felt his labors were in vain. The first thing he did was bring his concerns personally to the Lord. That’s what we can do when we have a relationship with him since he’s our friend.
Jeremiah’s conversation began with an acknowledgment that he knew the Lord was aware of his situation. Then he spoke to the Lord about the severe persecution that he faced from God-haters, asking the Lord to show up for him and defend him against persecutors (Jer. 15:15). He even pleaded with the Lord, “take me not away in thy longsuffering,” which is to say he asked the Lord not to be so longsuffering with the people in bringing judgment that they would be allowed to destroy him. Jeremiah then points out he was so devoted to God, he suffered rebukes from people for the Lord’s sake. So there’s nothing wrong with us saying to God, “Lord, see how much I’ve done on your behalf?” when we may wonder where he is in our challenging moments.
The prophet in v. 16 proceeded to bring the Lord’s attention to how devoted he was to God’s word and the Lord’s name. The word was so vital to him that he absorbed it internally with joy as if it were the best meal he ever had. And he was proud to be called by the Lord’s name.
In fact, God’s word and name were so important to him that he was picky about who he associated with (v. 17). When he presented God’s word in love several times to people, yet all they did was mock it and run it down while promoting their sins, he didn’t hang out with them, refusing to endorse their behavior out of righteous indignation that came from Jehovah. The mocking and persecution he faced was so bad, he was very often left all by himself with no friends. In today’s terms, if he were on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, he would have 0 friends or followers. He would not have a big enough congregation to rent out a school, let alone build a megachurch.
Undoubtedly, he felt like a failure. By the world’s standards, he was. And he felt as if his situation wouldn’t get better, to the point he asked God if God would make him out to be a liar (v. 18) and like a worthless body of water.
In this moment of being point-blank real with Jehovah about how he felt, the Lord encouraged him in vv. 19-21. Jehovah told him to return and continue in his ministry and he would make Jeremiah stand in his presence, which included standing before the rebellious people (v. 19). He encouraged Jeremiah to keep on discerning between what was precious to God versus what was considered vile while being God’s mouthpiece.
Additionally, it was the people’s duty to “return” or repent to Jeremiah, and not his duty to “return” or compromise with them (v. 19). Then if Jeremiah stood on these principles, God assured Jeremiah he would make the prophet like an impenetrable wall of brass to prevail against any and all who would come against him, to save and deliver him from all of his wicked enemies.
My prayer is that any believer in the Lord Jesus going through persecution, discouragement, doubts, and burnout will take this interaction between Jeremiah and Jehovah and apply it with godly wisdom.