If you want an example of a prophet who had a rough time, go to Jeremiah. The man was never listened to, was jailed, and was even dragged into a form of exile when he ended up being right. He was recognized long after his death and never during his life. He was, without a doubt, a prophet that suffered.
Why would someone suffer this much for a people?
Jeremiah, throughout the book about his life work, is a man of intense vision. Its neither a vision of destruction and judgement nor one of his own triumph and vindication. It’s not even his own vision. The entire book up to being taken to Egypt is filled with tension with a stubborn group of people who want to do things their way and against God. Even when he is in Egypt, the scene keeps playing out. Confrontation is a major theme running through this man’s life because God placed a vision in him.
In chapter 20, Jeremiah begins to describe his life vision like a fire in his bones. He is describing that feeling of wanting to stop what he is doing, but then realizing that he just can’t. It points to something profound and unstoppable in Jeremiah’s identity. God keeps sending, and Jeremiah keeps going. There are more verses I could quote for you here, but they would be too many. Besides, you get a better view when read the entire book in one sitting. If you do not like reading, have it read to you, there’s an app for that.
The best thing about Jeremiah is that I can see myself in Jeremiah. He acts and then struggles in confrontation with people who normally would have loved and cared about him. Being told no so many times can make a man go mad and lead him to be depressed, especially when he is trying to speak meaning into other people’s lives. Whether you are trying to speak a challenging word to believers or just trying to do something important, the word no is devastating, especially when you invest a good portion of your life to the effort.
Have you even been in confrontation because you were trying to do the right thing? I’m not talking about just disagreeing with someone and stubbornly saying you are the one who is right. That sounds more like the wayward Israelite. The struggle here is about something that has been put inside you and is from somewhere outside of you. It’s not an emotion, it is an identity found in a vision and a mission. If you have that, you will always find that patience is something that is needed. You cannot just run this race and expect it to be easy. It’s not a playground experience. It’s the Spartan Race. It’s like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Running Man…okay, terrible movie to use as an example, but you get my point. If you walk that path, you will have to struggle.
Jeremiah is a legend to Bible readers. No one forgets a good story of struggle. You can hardly make some of the stuff in Jeremiah up. It is a book of a great teaching for those trying to live meaningfully for God and His mission. Live out the struggle with patience and you will get to the place God wants you to be. It might not be today. It might take years. But a day of hope is coming.
When you talk with truth and grace and meaning to people, know that some will take it. But always remember that there are those who won’t take it; who can’t take it.
Some of these people are outside of the Church and some are in the Church.
You just have to keep speaking love and meaning to these people. Speak patiently and love patiently. It will hurt, but I think that loving and hurting will make our stories better than living distanced and lonely. Because that is what our heroes of the Faith like Jeremiah did.