I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of His wrath. He has led me and made me walk in darkness and not in light. Surely He has turned His hand against me time and time again throughout the day.
Jeremiah had been given a really tough job by anyone’s standards. He was the one faithful child among thousands upon thousands who had turned their backs on the Lord. It was for him to deliver words of judgment on his own people, and even those from his own town sought to kill him for it. He not only had seen the downfall of his people but also had to bring it to their attention. Jeremiah was called to blow the horn, but no one wanted to listen. The words he was asked to speak indicated that judgment indeed was coming because their hearts were hardened and would not turn. He was told by God not to pray for these people but only to speak of the destruction that would come, then he would see it arrive.
Jeremiah’s lament was for his people and for himself. He was the faithful one, so he had drawn close to the Lord and knew his ways. The God he knew was a God of grace and compassion, yet Jeremiah was asked to stand and remain in such a dark place and watch the ruin around him. There was a struggle within this man because the outcome was just but incredibly difficult to observe. He loved these people, and he had to watch them suffer justly. We might think that his being spared by virtue of his righteousness would mean that he did not suffer, but it tore him apart to watch this unfold. He could not make those people turn back to the Lord, and he could not spare them from this fate. He could only witness it, powerless to change it.
Jeremiah cried out for himself as much as he cried out for his people. They were suffering in different ways, but this was suffering for all. Their pain was his pain. We might think that there is no consolation in the just judgment of those we love, but there is. We can be consoled to know that the Lord is setting things right and drawing people to him in the process. There would be a remant after this period, and some of God’s children would return to him. The suffering would produce repentance. God’s people would not vanish from the Earth. Father, give us consolation if we are called to endure a time of darkness like this, knowing that its purpose will be fulfilled.