“If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses?” Jeremiah 12:5
Life can be hard and then sometimes in the midst of difficult days…it gets harder. Which is a good reason to take a step back and read about the prophet Jeremiah. He is sometimes known as the weeping prophet and in his day, life was hard. The people of Israel were plotting against him. Probably because as the prophet, it was his job to let Israel know how far they had removed themselves from the covenant established between Israel and God and what the impending punishment would be. Not a fun job and to be honest no one likes to hear how they have messed up let alone what the consequences will be.
So, Jeremiah is understandably depressed about his situation and is ready to give up. Can we all relate? I imagine we have all had days or periods in our life where we just want to throw in the towel and say: “I have had enough! I am done! I give up!” But as Jeremiah is venting to God…because that is exactly what Jeremiah is doing…We see two things:
First, God allows the venting. We see through the example of Jeremiah that we can take all we are feeling to God and God will listen. God will be there with us in our lament…which is what venting is all about. We are lamenting that things are not as we think they should be. We are frustrated. We are tired. We are angry even about how life is going in these moments. But in these moments, we can go to God and God will listen. God is better than having a cup of coffee/tea with our bestie as we complain about how unfair it all is. And we do need to find a way to lament. Going to God with it all is actually better than constantly going to our friends who are probably dealing with their own stuff and really, in all honesty, don’t need your stuff piled on top of theirs. We can also burn out relationships if all we do is complain, vent and lament about life. Talk about sucking the joy right out of a friendship!
But more importantly, is the second thing we see happening between God and Jeremiah. First of course is that God listened. But then God gave Jeremiah a Gibbs slap to the back of his head! What you say? God did what? Jeremiah has lifted up his complaint…God has listened…and then God responded: “If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses?” BOOM! I love how Eugene Peterson who wrote the Message version of the Bible puts this conversation between God and Jeremiah:
“Life is difficult, Jeremiah. Are you going to quit at the first wave of opposition? .… Are you going to live cautiously or courageously? I called you to live at your best, to pursue righteousness, to sustain a drive toward excellence. It is easier, I know, to be neurotic. It is easier to be parasitic. It is easier to relax in the embracing arms of The Average. Easier, but not better. Easier, but not more significant. Easier, but not more fulfilling. I called you to a life of purpose far beyond what you think yourself capable of living and promised you adequate strength to fulfill your destiny. Now at the first sign of difficulty you are ready to quit. If you are fatigued by this run-of-the-mill crowd of apathetic mediocrities, what will you do when the real race starts, the race with the swift and determined horses of excellence? What is it you really want, Jeremiah, do you want to shuffle along with this crowd, or run with the horses?”
I recommend you re-read the above passage and insert your name in place of Jeremiah’s. Then ask: Do you want to run with the horses? Do you want to strive for excellence or are you content with hum drum mediocrity? Are you going to continue to wallow in self-pity or rise to the challenges that life is offering?
Maybe, what we need is a change of perspective. Which is exactly what God is giving Jeremiah. We can get so caught up in self-pity and negative thought patterns that we forget life is what we make it. We can wallow…or we can choose to rise above the crowds and soar with the eagles. The choice is ours to make.
One final thought: I have on my bulletin board that is across from my desk a 3×5 card with the following words (I have no idea who originally authored them):
“We are all faced with great opportunities…brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.”
What impossible situations are you faced with in your life that are actually great opportunities for you to impact the lives of the people around you? Where are you getting distracted by self-pity, over-whelmed emotions, negative thinking, or just plain apathy? The questions to ask are these: Are you going to just sit there? Or will you run with the horses?
BTW: Jeremiah chose to run with the horses.