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In God’s world, even the worst doesn’t last forever

Posted Dec 6, 2017

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Daily Scripture

Jeremiah 31:10-13

10 Listen to the Lord’s word, you nations,
    and announce it to the distant islands:
The one who scattered Israel will gather them
    and keep them safe, as a shepherd his flock.
11 The Lord will rescue the people of Jacob
    and deliver them from the power of those stronger than they are.
12 They will come shouting for joy on the hills of Zion,
    jubilant over the Lord’s gifts:
        grain, wine, oil, flocks, and herds.
Their lives will be like a lush garden;
    they will grieve no more.
13 Then the young women will dance for joy;
    the young and old men will join in.
I will turn their mourning into laughter
    and their sadness into joy;
        I will comfort them.

Reflection Questions

Jeremiah’s prophetic commission was a painfully lonely one. Much of the time, he pled with the citizens of Jerusalem not to throw away their lives by fighting the invading Babylonian troops (cf. Jeremiah 21:8-9, for example). But in today’s reading, he looked ahead and spoke of hope and joy. The day would come (not right away, but it would come) when Israel’s exile would end. And, like the glow of dawn on the horizon, Jeremiah’s words hinted at the day when God would turn all “mourning into laughter and sadness into joy.”

  • Jeremiah 31 began with the words “at that time.” Scholar Andrew Dearman wrote, “‘That time’ is a reference to a decisive time of divine activity and the resulting changes…. How far into the future is not specified by such references; the emphasis is on the qualitative changes between the present grim circumstances and the future God has promised.”* Jeremiah’s message said neither Israel’s exile, nor the world’s brokenness, would last forever. How easy or hard do you find it to trust that God’s great story ends in joy, not in sorrow?
  • The verse 12 promise that “they will grieve no more” fit well with the words of Isaiah 25:8: “The LORD God will wipe tears from every face.” What events or situations have brought the most grief into your life? How meaningful to you is the promise that God will ultimately heal your grief, that you will grieve no more?

Prayer

Lord God, thank you for the prophetic promise that your story (and therefore mine as your child) ends in joy. I eagerly look forward to that wonderful day. Amen.

 

* J. Andrew Dearman, The NIV Application Commentary: Jeremiah, Lamentations. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002, p. 283.

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Wendy Connelly

Wendy Connelly

Wendy Connelly is wife to Mark, mom to two kids and a seminary student at Saint Paul School of Theology. She teaches classes at Resurrection Downtown and hosts an interfaith podcast, which you can subscribe to at TheLiftPodcast.org.

As I sat in church this Sunday listening to the message of “Finding Joy in the Darkness,” tears filled my eyes. Our family’s Christmas card read, “Joy to the World!” but this joy we proclaimed felt elusive. We had just learned days before that our five-month-old kitten, Mystic, had a rare virus and only days to live. We consulted research journals and animal experts, but all hope was lost.

When Monday came, the air hung heavy, and Mystic suffered. We pulled the kids from school and went together to the vet’s office, giving Mystic endless snuggles and love. We anointed her body with fragrant oil, recited a blessing, read scriptures and sang a song from Les Miserables as she faded out of this life:

Mystic we bless your name;
Mystic lay down your burdens;
You filled our lives with love;
Now you will be with God.

Tears streamed down our faces as we placed our sweet kitten into the cold earth, huddled together and holding each other’s grief. Our hearts felt hollow, the faith we proclaimed through gritted teeth was riddled in doubt, but there was a tragic beauty in these moments that washed over us in waves of gentle comfort. And in this comfort, we clung to hope. We chose “joy-notwithstanding.”

Over the previous weeks, the kids and I had fittingly memorized a quote by William Shakespeare:

“Sweet are the uses of adversity which, like the toad, ugly and venomous, wears yet a precious jewel in his head.”

Could something good emerge from this tragedy? A deeper love among us? A hard-won compassion for others? Whatever ugly and venomous toad you carry in your pocket, could God also make of it a jewel of virtue, a resurrection crown?

Our mourning is still thick and heavy, our sadness overwhelming. But we cling to hope that, for our Mystic, all is well… and that in our lives, too, all manner of things shall be made well, our sadness will turn to joy-notwithstanding, and we will laugh again.

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