Here are words from God and words spoken to God that have not been cleaned and prettied up for church. In the book of Jeremiah, greater stress has been put on honest, heartfelt expression than on noble religious sentiment.
We witness Jeremiah moving back and forth between complete despair and sweeping hope, between strong commitment to God and anger against God’s demands. One moment he gives up hope, calls it quits, and attempts to end the conversation. Then, in the very next verse, the conversation resumes, and Jeremiah returns to the fray and speaks again. Even for those as close to the heart of God as Jeremiah, we see that it is possible one day to feel firm hope and confidence in the goodness of God and the next day to feel complete forsakenness and despair. Here is a very honest, very revealing book of the Bible. Rather than polite, superficial speech, everyone smiling, everyone positive, upbeat, happy and content, Jeremiah provides us with a wonderful invitation to passionate, honest relationship with the God who has called our faith community to be a community not only of love and hope but also of truth and realism. This is at the heart of any true spiritual formation work.
(Image: from Michelangelo’s figure of Jeremiah on the Sistine Chapel ceiling via Wikipedia)