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2. Loneliness and burden-bearing.
Experiences of personal loneliness by Christians, and the weight of burdens they carry, are common. Similar experiences of isolation and the weight of suffering are attested by biblical figures.
The book of Jeremiah depicts the agony of Jeremiah as interlocked with the agony of Yahweh himself at Israel’s rejection of him. Yahweh calls the people his daughter, they provoke him to agony, yet Jeremiah feels the wound, and the sickness grabs hold of his own heart and fills him with anguish and even weeping for what he sees ahead.
Five great confessions of Jeremiah have been identified; take the time to read and reflect on these:
11:18-23 and 12:1-6;
All share a highly personal description of Jeremiah’s own sufferings and events of lively despair, mixed with a trust in God that reaches out in the dark for help. Jeremiah’s deep feelings well up from his spiritual anguish.
Perhaps the most significant contributing factor to Jeremiah’s agony was his intense identification with the people to whom he had to proclaim the judgment of God:
My heart, my heart! Let me writhe! O walls of my heart! My heart is in tumult within: I cannot keep still, For the sound of the horn do I hear, The blast of battle!
Crash upon crash it comes – For all the land is ravaged Of a sudden my tent is ravaged In an instant my curtains.
Not only so, but we also rejoice in our
sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance,
character; and character, hope. –Romans 5:3-4
A man named Parnell Bailey toured an orange grove once where an irrigation
pump had broken. The season was dry and some of the trees were dying because
they lacked water. The man giving the tour then took Bailey to his own orchard
where irrigation was used sparingly.
He said, “These trees could go without rain for another two weeks. When they
were young, I frequently kept water from them. This hardship caused them to send
their roots deeper into the soil in search of moisture. Now, my trees have the
deepest roots in the area. While others are being scorched by the sun, these are
finding moisture at greater depths.”
The story above is a good picture of how suffering can produce the “roots” we
as believers need to survive and thrive in any season of life.
But to grow these roots, you and I must plant ourselves in God’s Word to find
comfort and strength when battling difficulties in life.
Being thrown into the “furnace of affliction” is a test of faith, as it
forces us to rely solely on the Lord. Isaiah 48:10 says, “See, I have refined
you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.”
Whatever trial you may be facing today—be it illness, loneliness, financial
difficulty, or family struggles—remember to stay rooted in the Lord. Then you
can say as the psalmist did: “My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise
preserves my life” (Psalm 119:50).
PRAYER CHALLENGE: Ask God to
strengthen your faith when you are faced with affliction. Pray that He would
comfort you with His Word in times of suffering.