I have a terrible habit and I don’t share this to be coy. I cut people off in conversations. It is legitimately a problem. On the one hand, I can be an amazing listener. Sometimes I am full of patience and ready to take in every word someone says. There’s this calm I’ll have as I sit back and intently absorb where someone is coming from.
Then…there are other situations when I allow my excitement or frustration to get the best of me and I jump to share my conclusions – repeatedly. In either case, of excitement or frustration, I become very confident in my perspective of the other person. It may have been a series of conversations and interactions with them or one blunt statement they’ve shared that crystalizes into the backbone of my conclusion. I am still listening, in the technical sense, but I am no longer listening well. I become so satisfied with the information I have gathered so far that I begin to listen in order to speak.
Here is the hardest part about this temptation to cut someone off mid-monologue, sometimes I’m right! When that turns out to be the case the struggle is really real. Just thinking about it makes my pride want to stand up and do a mini-Spartan war cry, clenched fists, face turned toward the sky, eyes squinted nearly shut, the whole nine, but of course in a very dainty non-aggressive way *cough*.
It is much easier for me to be wrong about what someone is saying or how certain events took place. Being wrong flags me down and cues me in to shut up and really listen. Apologies even flow easier from me and I’ll concede that I should not have cut them off. However, what I am still learning to concede is this: I can be right in what happened, what was said, even what was intended but I can still be completely wrong about what someone will do or say next, how a conversation can evolve, or what new experience can take place.
Jeremiah went through hell, so much so that he is nicknamed “The Weeping Prophet”. He was beaten, mocked, and placed in stocks for all to see. None of this happened because he was under punishment or disobeyed God. It happened because people did not like the message he had for them from the Lord. It happened because he was obedient.
Can you imagine the anger and the pain he must have felt? He cries out to God in Jeremiah 20:7, “O Lord, you have deceived me, and I was deceived; you are stronger than I, and you have prevailed. I have become a laughing stock…everyone mocks me.” He even goes on later in verse 10 “’Denounce him! Let us denounce him!’ say all my close friends, watching for my fall.” The government that is supposed to protect and honor him as God’s messenger has abused him. The community that raised him is using him as the butt of their jokes. The “close friends” he thought he had are waiting for him to fail. Worst of all he feels deceived by God because he didn’t see any of this chaos coming.
He was right to feel how he felt. He spoke no lies about his circumstances. A “Hey! Maybe things aren’t really as bad as they seem!” pep talk would not suffice. He was living a nightmare. His conclusion about the gravity of his situation was correct, but even with all this Jeremiah continues “But the Lord is with me like a mighty warrior; so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail…Sing to the Lord; praise the Lord! For he has delivered the life of the needy from the hand of evildoers.” (Jeremiah 20:11,13)
Mind you, following this praise Jeremiah goes on to curse the day he was born. These verses are not him perking up and putting a smile on. He is still very much so in the thick of despair, which makes this that much more encouraging. Struggling under the weight of his situation Jeremiah concedes that what is does not solidify what will be. He acknowledges who holds the authority of the future and praises the God who is the beginning and end. Knowing God led him to speak a warning to Israel, Jeremiah chooses not only to trust that God’s not finished, but be open to the possibility of God turning the chaos and pain on its head. Jeremiah’s praise was a war cry of humility and surrender to trust God’s goodness. It was a decision in the midst of severe injury to let God finish.
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6) This verse, my favorite verse, speaks of God’s work in our hearts, yet the principle that God finishes what He begins is the same.
In what ways do you struggle to have hope for what God will do for you? What tempts you to doubt His goodness? Share, and let’s discuss it.