Jeremiah’s Melancholia

As I’m preparing to preach on Jeremiah at Pleasant Bay Church this weekend, I’ve been thinking about my favorite prophet.  Why is he my favorite?  Because he’s so darned emotional.  Jeremiah isn’t afraid to let loose with some anger or some moping.  He writes evocatively, and rightfully so.  His job was pretty horrible.

The task God gave to him?  Tell his nation that they were all doomed…and there really wasn’t anything they could do about it.  It was so bad that God told Jeremiah that he shouldn’t even pray for them.  (Jer. 7:16).  They were going to be destroyed.  Their world–and his–was going to end.

A new movie by the controversial director Lars von Trier called Melancholia addresses the idea of a bleak ending.  In the film, a rogue planet crashes into Earth, and everyone dies.  No last minute heroics here.  As Brett McCracken of Relevant Magazine says,

As unsettling as it is to see von Trier’s planetary version of a plane hitting a static skyscraper, its also weirdly moving. There’s a sense in which every human instinctively knows the Earth will not last forever and that fiery destruction is in some way deserved. There’s a reason why, if we’re honest with ourselves, disasters and mass calamity confront us as things simultaneously horrific and transcendent, visceral reminders of our finitude and God’s sovereignty.

Pretty grim.  But how similar this is to Jeremiah’s very calling, when God tells him (Jer. 1:14-16):

The LORD said to me, “From the north disaster will be poured out on all who live in the land. I am about to summon all the peoples of the northern kingdoms,” declares the LORD.

“Their kings will come and set up their thrones
in the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem;
they will come against all her surrounding walls
and against all the towns of Judah.
I will pronounce my judgments on my people
because of their wickedness in forsaking me,
in burning incense to other gods
and in worshiping what their hands have made.

As Jeremiah grapples with the heavy burden of knowledge he carries, he also faces rejection and hatred from his countrymen.  Because, hey: who likes bad news?   In his words (Jer. 20:7-10a):

You deceived me, LORD, and I was deceived;
you overpowered me and prevailed.
I am ridiculed all day long;
everyone mocks me.
Whenever I speak, I cry out
proclaiming violence and destruction.
So the word of the LORD has brought me
insult and reproach all day long.
But if I say, “I will not mention his word
or speak anymore in his name,”
his word is in my heart like a fire,
a fire shut up in my bones.
I am weary of holding it in;
indeed, I cannot.
I hear many whispering,
“Terror on every side!
Denounce him! Let’s denounce him!”

So I like Jeremiah because of his moodiness.  Because of his poetry.  Because of his honest expression of emotion.  He’s mad as Hell and, well, he isn’t going to do it without telling God what he thinks.  Unlike Jeremiah, we’re often afraid to be so honest with ourselves…and with God.  Fortuitous, then, that yesterday I started reading The Emotionally Healthy Church, a great book by Peter Scazzero, a pastor pretty fed up with the way church leaders and Christians seem to constantly downplay, hide, reject, or otherwise subvert their real emotions to create some false sense of stability or perfection.  How freeing, then, we he says, “Denying any aspect of what it means to be a fully human person made in the image of God carries with it catastrophic, long-term consequences–in our relationship with God, with others, and with ourselves” (54).

So I recommend Scazzero’s book, the prophet Jeremiah, and our emotions on a rainy day.  I think we all need such things from time to time.  And remember: God can handle it.

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2 comments on “Jeremiah’s Melancholia

  1. Great post. I love your explanation, and I think seeing how emotional Jeremiah can be is definitely a lesson on its own.

  2. Stan! Good to see you on here! I appreciate the comment. Jeremiah’s a big fave of mine, and I’m glad to share him 🙂

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