There was once a country who believed nothing bad would happen to them because they were a special nation, blessed by God.
They were prosperous, proud of their unique political system and enjoyed a long faith heritage as a bedrock for their country. Sure, the society wasn’t completely just–the poor were getting forgotten, vulnerable people and refugees were either neglected or harmed–but as a nation they were blessed. They assumed God approved of them.
Who was this country?
It was Judah in the time of Jeremiah, but you may just see some parallels today.
They thought that whatever they did, they would be safe. Safe from war, safe from disaster. They thought it didn’t matter what happened to the minorities oppressed in their land. They did not love God wholeheartedly; they did not love their neighbour as themselves. They had ignored God’s commands to love the foreigners and refugees, the widow, the orphan, the vulnerable. They assumed God wouldn’t notice. So far, it seemed like God hadn’t. –Jer. 6:6-8, 13-14; 7:4-11
To them, God said through Jeremiah, “I am watching.” God saw it all. –Jer. 1:12; 7:11; 31:28; 44:27
To us, today, God says, “I am watching.”
They refused to listen to God, and thought they would be safe. They were wrong.
War invaded their land. The people who had oppressed refugees became refugees themselves.
This was Judah. But could it be the same for similarly privileged nations today?
Even as I write this, I can hear the objections. I see them on my social media timelines.
“Don’t be so overdramatic. It will be alright.”
I am overdramatic, oversensitive, overwhelmed–all the “over’s.” This much is true.
But I look at Jeremiah–the prophet dismissed and reviled as a scaremonger. He was always in tears, weeping over the country, while everyone else said it was fine.
As Esther Emery says in her beautiful memoir, What Falls from the Sky, “I am a little too much for this world … but I am not too much for the Old Testament Prophets.”
Blessed are the overdramatic–for so were all the prophets of God.
Some criticise today’s lamenters for being scaremongers.
“Don’t despair! God is in control! It will be alright!”
I understand this impulse all too well. The evils of our world are too much to bear alone. It is good to remember God is ultimately in charge, and cares even more about justice than any human. I understand the impulse to withdraw. I also understand the impulse to cling to hope, even false hope, in the vacuum of despair.
But this verse is constantly echoing in my brain–God’s warning to Jeremiah about “false prophets and priests:”
“They dress the wound of my people
as though it were not serious.
‘Peace, peace,’ they say,
when there is no peace.” –Jer. 6:14; 8:11
It is so tempting to do similarly today. We minimise others’ distress because it hasn’t happened to us.
“It’s not as bad as everyone says,” we reassure ourselves and others, but our perspective does not stray far outside our immediate circles.
“God is still in control–it will be alright” we say, but we really mean, “I am still in control–I will be alright.”
“Peace, peace,” we say, when there is no peace.
Other Christian friends say, “God is in charge — it will be all right. Love and justice will win out.” They use a more gentle tone, and I listen to them, because they have lived through totalitarian regimes and seen the suffering of many. I see their steely eyes that somehow still hold joy, and I understand they see the cost of what “it will be all right” looks like in practice. I see that they are prepared to sacrifice their freedom for others’, and they have the strength to act and elicit change. They are not false prophets, yet they bring hope.
In turbulent times, we admire the do-ers, the charities rolling their sleeves up, the lawyers and politicians working for justice behind the scenes, and rightly so, for we need them.
But let’s not dismiss those who simply lament and weep. Let’s not make a false hierarchy–in either direction–between the pray-ers and the protesters.
Prayer can be as much of a battle as activism. Likewise, to protest is to pray with your feet as well as your lips.
So this is a benediction for the overdramatic, the oversensitive, the wailers and lamenters:
Blessed are those who despair over the silence at injustice–for God is watching and God sees.
Blessed are those who pray–for God is listening.
Blessed are the lawyers–for you can fight injustice with words, not swords.
Blessed are the parents and teachers–for you can tell true stories to a new generation.
Blessed are the weary, faithful prophets to whom no one listens–for you come from a long and precious lineage.
Blessed are the scaremongers–because sometimes we need to be scared by our communal sin.
Blessed are those who weep over your nation or church–because Jeremiah wept over Judah, and Jesus wept over Jerusalem.
Blessed are the overdramatic, the oversensitive, the overwhelmed–because your lament is a holy work, and those tears are seen by God.