On Day Eighteen I said that God sends companions to us in exile to comfort and encourage us. One of those comforters for me back in my days on the farm were the words from Jeremiah the prophet. He wrote a letter of mourning after the destruction of Jerusalem. He understood the depths of loss. After he reflected on his loss he wrote:
It is good for a young man to work hard while he is young. He should sit alone and be quiet; the Lord has given him hard work to do.
Well, that got my attention. I was certainly working hard. Just a reminder: I moved from the Twin Cities to a farm in Wisconsin with two other families back in 1990. It was a utopian dream to create a Christian community but it didn’t work out that way. We ended up working very hard to survive financially and barely had time to spend with one another. After seven years we dissolved the community. Jeremiah continues:
He should bow down to the ground; maybe there is still hope. He should let anyone slap his cheek; he should be filled with humility.
That’s how I felt, like I was getting slapped around by life. Nothing I did succeeded. It was very humiliating. I didn’t understand why our plans for community failed. We thought we heard from God. But sometimes our life felt like hell. Sometimes that’s what life does to you.
Just about everything in my life struggled during those years: my marriage, my faith, my finances, my parenting, etc.
My guess is, you might know exactly what I mean. You too feel slapped around and you wonder if anything good can come from it. So let’s keep reading:
But the Lord will not reject his people forever. Although he brings sorrow, he also has mercy and great love. He does not like to punish people or make them sad. Lamentations 3:24-33
This might sound like a downer, but it really helped me understand what God might be doing. I felt like God was using this time to break me of my pride. But if I worked through it, I’d come out on the other side a better person to do God’s will.
You see, before the farm, I was overconfident. I didn’t know that, but I was. I thought if I just worked hard enough and smart enough, and with God’s help, I could accomplish anything. I could even be profitable farming! That’s how delusional I was!
The farm experience revealed my overconfidence. It seemed that God was showing me that he wasn’t going to bless everything I touched just because I was a Christian and worked hard and smart.
So, instead of blessing our farm experience, God actually used it to strip me of a lot of pride. (Not all of it, unfortunately). Just about everything in my life struggled during those years: my marriage, my faith, my finances, my parenting, etc. Things broke that I couldn’t fix. I’d just stand there and stare at what I broke, totally powerless to fix it. Animals died from my mistakes. I can’t tell you how devastating that was.
I felt like an utter failure. Maybe you’ve been in a place like that. Everything you touched seemed to fall apart.
Maybe you went into your church thinking you were going to turn it around. You were going to do what other pastors couldn’t do. They didn’t have the skills or the faith that you do. It’ll be different for you. You’ll have this church flying high in no time. Fifteen years later, you’ve got less people than when you started.
I was miserable during this season, but in retrospect, I think God was saying,
I’m going to use you Remy, but when I use you I want you to know that it has nothing to do with you. It has everything to do with me.
Now I can say, with Jeremiah, God doesn’t reject his people forever. Although he brings sorrow, he also has mercy and love. I hope you can believe that and find comfort in your exile.
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