‘Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty.’ Malachi 3:7b
The complaint of Jeremiah was filled with self-pity, but he was really having a terribly hard time. We can be sure, it was true what he said. Did we ever suffer like Jeremiah? ‘Think of how I suffer reproach for Your sake. When Your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight.’ And just read on… rejected and lonely, because God had chosen him. All this hurt him. He knew God Himself had caused him to sit alone.
Do you know what it is like to be sat alone because God’s hand is on you? No, not the kind of loneliness that is caused by obstinacy, but the alienation of sometimes even the most intimate friends because God has taken hold of you and wants to prepare you for His plan. That hurts and is not joyful at all. Of course, we can call it a virtue never to have sat in the company of revellers, but when we see their merrymaking… then it still hurts.
How strong is then the temptation to join them, to be merry too, to join in with the world… But the terrible thing is that when we think like this, the temptation grows even stronger, for then we grieve the Holy Spirit and God is more distant than ever: ‘Like a deceptive brook, like a spring that fails’ (:18).
Poor Jeremiah, poor pious me! But the Eternal One has only one answer to this depressing self-pity: ‘If you repent, I will restore you’. Then He will strengthen us like a fortified wall of bronze, and He will save us from the hands of the wicked and deliver us from the grasp of the cruel.
There is a cruel one, the devil. But beware, he has many henchmen… and one of the most cunning of these is the spirit of self-pity!