This Is Exactly What We Need To Hear Today, In These Troubled Times

In reading this passage from chapter 17 of the Book of Jeremiah, I am struck with how appropriate it is to read and to meditate on in these troubled times. It points us inward, to reflect both on our own capacity for sinful error, and outward to the One who loves us despite our sinfulness, so much that he is the source of our healing and the goal of our own love. Let us see how.

The chapter begins with a very powerful truth: “The sin of Judah is written with an iron stylus, engraved with a diamond point upon the tablets of their hearts.” (verse 1) We should all quake under the weight of that image. Our sins are written on our hearts (our souls) as if with an instrument made of heavy iron, with a point as hard and sharp as a diamond. They are ours. They belong to no one else. Our sins put us in danger of losing “everything,” especially our very souls. If we have become habituated to such behavior, we have become slaves to it. Yet, we know, in the light of faith, that God’s righteous anger with us is tempered by his love for us and his generous mercy, if we turn away from our sins and back toward him.

But Jeremiah gets us to reflect also on the true wisdom of God’s law. “Thus says the Lord, ‘Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord.” Jeremiah shows us how this foolishness of arrogantly turning away from the Lord eventually and certainly turns against us, both in this life and in the one to come. This way of life is ultimately fruitless and barren. Our lives become like a desert that only spreads out from us further and further as we continue in our rebellion. Such a way of being in the world is deadly to us and to those who are affected by us. Jeremiah tells us the truth about ourselves: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it.” (verse 9) Paul reveals this wisdom when he says. “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Romans 7:15) We are sinners. That is the truth. But the story does not stay there, or end there. Thanks be to God.

On the other hand, Jeremiah tells us, “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence in in him.” When we live in this way, putting our trust in God alone, not in the ideas, the ideologies, the philosophies, or the laws of man, we become more alive than we could have imagined. If we “plant” the roots of our faith in God alone, he will be the stream that nourishes us at all times, even in the times of “drought,” or the times of great troubles, like our own. If we place our trust in God, if we turn away from our sinful ways, he will strengthen us in our intellects and in our souls. We will be no longer afraid of the trials and tribulations of the world. We will be able to face them with the confidence that can only come from faith in our loving and merciful Lord.

Lord, help us to reflect on our own sins and give us the faith to turn away from them and toward you in all things, especially in difficult times. We pray, “Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me and I shall be saved; for you are my praise.” It is not in man that we hope, but in you alone, Lord. Only in you will we find the peace our hearts so dearly yearn for. In you we trust. We ask you for the graces of wisdom and courage in all of this. We pray, as always, in your name, Jesus. You are our praise. Amen!

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.