The Hearts of the Restless


In this passage, Jeremiah is prophesying to the Jews who are suffering under the Babylonian captivity. They are in exile and this is so because they had wandered away from the Lord. They had gotten lost. Their exile was the consequence of their turning from God. But God had not turned away from them.

Let us look at this passage through the metaphor of childhood. When, as children, we went astray of the family rules, our parents, out of love, had to teach us the appropriate lessons so that we would not find ourselves in the same situations again. Some of us needed to be taught these lessons several times before we finally understood that our choices had consequences and that it was smarter, more beneficial, more conducive to our own happiness to begin disciplining ourselves and making better choices. These lessons were, for most of us, not very easy. And so it was for the Jews. When we read about the Jews struggles here we are reading about ourselves as well. When we turn away from God, for whatever reason, we find ourselves, ultimately, in exile. If we are self-reflective enough, we will begin to do what God has Jeremiah telling the Jewish exiles to do here in this passage: “You will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

There are several important words for us to pay attention to here. Call. Pray. Listen. Seek. Find. First of all, we can see that each one of these words are actions. They are not passive verbs. They are also the actions of one who is humble. Who is it that we are to call on and to pray to? The only one who has the power to answer our deepest needs, God. It is he who has not abandoned us and never will. It is he who remains our patient, forgiving parent. It is his love and his support that our hearts seek, that we wish to find again. Indeed, as St. Augustine wrote, “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.” It is this rest that we so naturally seek. Its fulfillment is in God alone.

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How are we to call on and pray to, or to seek and to find God? With all of our hearts! Is this not worthy of all that we have? He will listen to us with total attention, with absolute compassion and perfect love. He will let us find him and he will fill us with his love. He will welcome us back from our exiles. We will no longer be lost. He will make us prosper in his wealth of love. Jesus echoes this passage when he tells us: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For anyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8) This is God’s promise to the Jews here in Jeremiah, and it is his promise to us today. He is always ready to listen to our prayers and to respond to them in ways that will be in our best interest. He has always been waiting patiently for us to seek him out and is happy to be “found.” His door is never locked against us. Knock, and you will see.

Lord, we have been wandering in strange and lonely places. Hear our calls and the prayers we lift up to you with our whole hearts. Listen. We seek you with our whole beings; let us find you in everything, in all places, and at all times. We pray these things in Jesus’ name. 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.