I think it’s going to be interesting to see what Ryan will end up being in his life. What he is going to end up choosing as a career. The same with his sisters. I am fascinated by who they are and who they will become and what choices they will make in life.
We all have those choices. Drive a cab. Teach 6th grade. Manage a warehouse. Sell office equipment. Proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, Son of the Most High. That last one is not a bad gig.
And as it’s the vocation that we are all called to participate in, that is a pretty important one to have. And I assume that most of the people in this room have committed to just that in one form or another. Yours is supposed to be a very different kind of life. Whatever your job is, this is your vocation.
You meet people that will simply awe you –the faithful, the caring, the humble. You see things that will amaze you –the smile of a person turning to Christ, little children finding love, the elderly discovering grace.
And I wish that was all we encounter. But we all know that we have watched people grow angry with God and abandon their faith, you have attended the funerals of little babies, and we have sat for hours at the bedside of the sick and the dying.
We experience heartache and loss and suffering.
But hear me when I tell you that even in times of the darkest despair, you can find your relief in God.
It’s really not unusual for God’s servants to become saddened, frustrated, maybe even depressed as they suffer along with the world as Christ suffered with it.
Some of you might have heard of George Washington Truett. My seminary was named after him. We know him as the boy preacher from North Carolina who spent 47 years as the pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas. We know him as the president of the Baptist World Alliance and the Southern Baptist Convention.
But what we might not know is that all this almost never happened. Early in his career at First Baptist Church, Pastor Truett become great friends with a man named JC Arnold. He was a former Texas Ranger who had become the Chief of Police of Dallas and was a faithful member of Truett’s church.
One day they went hunting and it happened that Captain Arnold was walking a little ahead of the preacher when Truett shifted his gun and it accidentally went off. He struck Arnold in the calf and they immediately rushed him to the hospital.
The doctors patched up the leg and told everyone that it would be fine but George Truett just didn’t feel right about it. He had a terrible feeling in his spirit. Sure enough, a few days later, a blood clot formed and Arnold died.
Truett was inconsolable. He blamed himself for the death of his best friend. His depression became so deep that he vowed he would never preach again. He just couldn’t find the joy anymore.
For Jeremiah, he believed that he had been called to preach a message of salvation to his people. When they heard it, surely they would turn from their wickedness and return to God.
But his hopeful expectations turned into dismal reality.
God had lied to him. The creator of the universe had deceived him about his mission. Who would not be affected by that?
We know what it is to have our enemies badmouth us but Jeremiah lost even his closest friends. They hated his message and turned on him and turned away from him. He couldn’t go on preaching but he found that it was worse for him to stop preaching. He was caught between God and a hard place.
There are probably times when it seems to you as if nothing is going right, as if your world has crashed down around you. You may think that your God and your friends have forsaken you.
Guilt, anger and depression are very real. These even come to those who we would not expect.
One of the reason to be watchful of this is that your reactions to these feelings can be very serious to those around you.
In Jeremiah’s time, the announcement of child was a great thing and to have it be a son was to know that the family would continue. The name would be passed down. The man who brought that message would be a hero.
But Jeremiah was so distraught that he curses the man who told his father about his birth. He wished this man dead. The messenger had done nothing wrong. He had committed no sin or crime but Jeremiah felt that he had to lash out at someone. He wanted this man to suffer.
And for nothing more than delivering a message that Jeremiah found distasteful.
He also takes it out upon himself. He cries out that he wished he had never been born, that he should have died in his mother’s womb. But wasn’t Jeremiah the one who was betrayed by his friends? Wasn’t it God who had deceived him? Jeremiah had committed no sin, no crime. After all, he was just someone bringing a message. He didn’t deserve all of this. And yet he wanted to die.
If we look, we can see the effects of depression in the lives of those around us. I came across the story of a woman named Lisa. She is a 30 year old with 2 children. She starts her story off by telling of her divorce. See, she had grown tired of her life and let the depression sweep over her. She started having an affair with a married man who also had a child. She got to the point where she couldn’t be with either man but didn’t want to be without them either. After her divorce from the father of her children, she had to move into her parent’s home with her kids. Eventually, Lisa quit her job and lost her friends, all the while dreaming of a perfect life in another state away from all of her problems.
So we can only imagine the impact she has on those around her. Two marriages destroyed, parents having to support a 30 year old woman, children without a role model to show them what is good and right. This is not a story to condemn Lisa, I certainly hope she finds the help she needs, but it can help us see how our actions affect more than just ourselves.
When we are totally focused on the things of our own lives, we treat people, even those we love, worse than they deserve. Be mindful of this so that when trouble falls, we can remember that our family and friends and neighbors and congregations are there to be a help for us in times of hardship.
If the story ended there, it might seem pretty bleak. But thank God that through all of it, we can recover our peace through the praise of God.
For Jeremiah, in the middle of all of this emotional and physical and spiritual turmoil, he was able to find his faith. He found his peace. And he did it when he turned from himself and back to the Lord. He called out to God and remembered his promises. He found that he was able to recall the nature of God. He knew God to be the protector. He remembered that Yahweh was righteous and everlasting and forever faithful.
When Jeremiah cried out, “Sing to the Lord, praise the Lord! For He has delivered the soul of the needy one from the hands of the evildoers” I don’t know if I can say that he fully understood what he meant for himself.
Maybe you have had a bad day or month or year and one Sunday you find yourself sitting in a pew while the offering plates are being passed and the organist is playing or you’re at home in your favorite chair or even driving along in your car. And your heart is longing for peace. Maybe the best you can do is mouth the words to the old hymn,
“O, Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder Consider all the worlds thy hands have made, I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, thy power throughout the universe displayed. Then… sings my soul, my savior God, to thee, how great thou art, how great thou art.”
God hears the cry of his people. Of that I am certain.
Now I am not just going to leave Reverend Truett’s story unfinished because eventually he found his relief in Christ. And we know that he did preach again and be a great witness to the power of the Lord. His life was never again 100% wonderful but it was never 100% desperate either. And that’s how our lives as ministers of reconciliation go. But we must always remember that even when we can’t find the tune or the melody, our souls need to sing to our God.