Here is another tough response God may have for us: sometimes, when we cry out for relief from the midst of our pain, God says in answer to our prayers, “NO; GET UP AND GET MOVING.” That’s what he did at one point with Jeremiah.
Jeremiah was hurting – he was a prophet whom no one listened to – and he cried out to God, saying, “Why has my pain been perpetual and my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Will You indeed be to me like a deceptive stream with water that is unreliable?” (Jeremiah 15:18). He wondered where God was in all of his hurt. He wondered if God was going to – or had already – let him down.
You might expect God to answer Jeremiah with words of rest and comfort. Far from it. Instead, God said, “If you return, then I will restore you – before Me you will stand; and if you extract the precious from the worthless, you will become My spokesman. They for their part may turn to you, but as for you, you must not turn to them” (Jeremiah 15:19).
When I first studied this passage – and even since then – I have struggled with God’s response to Jeremiah’s doubt and despair. Here, his prophet poured out his heart to God, asking if God was really with him, if he cared, if was going to act. And God’s answer is almost brusque: “Get your relationship with me right, stand up, and get back in the game.”
Not exactly comforting. But sometimes, we don’t need comfort. We need a kick in the pants. Pain can mire us down – as it evidently was doing for Jeremiah. Plus, he had apparently let his doubts draw him away from God, which is why God calls him to return to him.
God knew that this was a time for tough love, so he pointed out the problem and commanded his prophet to get his act together and do his job. Likewise, we sometimes need this tough love. It’s as if God is saying to us, “Yes, you’re hurting. Yes, things are hard. Here’s my answer: get on your knees and start praying, then stand up and do your job, doubts or no doubts, pain or no pain.”
What happens if we stay in our little pity party? God will let us stay there as long as we want, getting more and more miserable. The only way out is to get up and get with the program. When we do, we’ll find that God is more than willing to support us every step of the way. That is what God promised Jeremiah after delivering his rebuke:
“Then I will make you to this people
A fortified wall of bronze;
And though they fight against you,
They will not prevail over you;
For I am with you to save you
And deliver you,” declares the Lord.