Today is a Good Day, and a Day of Grief

A couple of days ago, the Lord woke me up at dawn, and the birds, especially that cardinals were singing. That filled me with hope and anticipation. In some of the darkest times of my life, when I wonder if I can take another step, another day of loneliness, another day of abuse, another day of pain, He sends a cardinal. And the other morning, it seemed like a flock of cardinals.

That is my goal, to get up when the sun rises.

Today, as I arose, and I took my bible, and my journal to the living room, and opened to where I sensed the Lord wanted me to start reading, Jeremiah 4:19.

“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.” (ESV)

“Waves of destruction roll over the land,
until it lies in complete desolation.
Suddenly my tents are destroyed;
in a moment my shelters are crushed.” v20 (NLT)

I fear that we are in a time like that. Verse 19 describes my heart at time. Deep grief. Deep confidence in the goodness of God. Cries for faith (Luke 17:5)

“The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” (ESV, NASB, RSV, and most other versions)

But, even there, Luke 17:5, is in the middle of a hard and wonderful section. There is great assurance surrounding repentance and forgiveness.

““And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” (17:4)

After 17:5, is the passage which begins with

“Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come immediately and sit down to eat’? 17:7

This set of verses reveals a lot about where I am. When I read 17:7-10, I hear a shaming rebuke. “You didn’t think that this would be easy, did you … maggot?” I ask, in sincerity, “Jesus, are you a drill sergeant?”. I believe that He is in some ways. But, the western institutional church seems to ride that one trick pony a lot, with shame. Jesus does that differently. I think that there is a reason that this is juxtaposed with the passages about forgiveness, and apostles asking for increased faith. Sometimes a friend will help expose wishful thinking in a way that involves exposing, lovingly exposing, some assumptions as pretty ludicrous. Will Jesus ever be a drill sergeant? Well, it seems that a lot of boys need a drill sergeant to help them with the transition to manhood. And the bottom line is to getting to speak the truth in love. (Eph 4:15). This often leads me to understand that “gentle” also sometimes needs to be by faith. (Which reminds me of the book title “A Severe Mercy”)

But, back to Jeremiah. I feel the hurt. I feel the grief. I understand the truth of Jer 4:22

“My people are foolish
and do not know me,” says the LORD.
“They are stupid children
who have no understanding.
They are clever enough at doing wrong,
but they have no idea how to do right!” (NLT)

I am afraid. We are in the middle of Covid-19, coming to what I believe to be the eye of the hurricane, or the sudden lowering of the water level before the tsunami hits.

If you read on in Jeremiah, there are things about the prophets being led astray. I believe that there are a lot of good people, and a lot of good prophets today. Ones who are humble. Ones who acknowledge God in their gifts. Ones who also acknowledge their own humanity in their gifts, and don’t try to get an identity out of being a prophet. But, a lot of prophets seem to want Covid-19 to be over by Pentacost. I believe that God has a purpose with Covid-19 and will use it to draw people to know Him. In order to do that, a lot of the distractions that we use to give ourselves an illusion of control will need to fail. But the failing of those distractions are small potatoes compared to bringing His children home. Drawing them close. He has made greater sacrifices.

He continues in Chapter 5

Jer 5:23 … this people has a stubborn and rebellious heart;
They have turned aside and departed.

 Jer 5:24‘They do not say in their heart,
“Let us now fear the LORD our God,
Who gives rain in its season,
Both the autumn rain and the spring rain,
Who keeps for us
The appointed weeks of the harvest.”

 Jer 5:25‘Your iniquities have turned these away,
And your sins have withheld good from you. (NASB)

I can’t deny that I have “a stubborn and rebellious heart”

I fail to be grateful.

And I look at God as stingy, when it is my sin that is withholding good from me.

And that brings me back to repentance, and forgiveness and the goodness of God. In the past, I would have tried to figure out what I needed to do to get the sin out of my life so that I could let the good times roll. And that would be ineffective. Repenting so that I could indulge my desires.

I am learning to repent differently. I am coming to know God. In the middle of the devastation, He is there. The judge enters into the judgment with us. Even the word “judgment” has changed. The Judge takes off His robes, comes down to face the person, personally leads them to prison, gets into an orange jumpsuit with them, and takes one of the bunks in the cell.

This is important to me in particular, because I want to be the type of judge that we see in the world. Slams the gavel, and says “Get that scum out of here. Next case.” God is not like that.

Even in the times that we are hurting or limited, He is with us. And He has a purpose.

Although the Lord has given you bread of privation and water of oppression, He, your Teacher will no longer hide Himself, but your eyes will behold your Teacher. Isa 30:20

That verse is honey for my heart.