If there is ever a good time to invest in real estate, it would be when an invading army is besieging you city. My guess is land goes cheap in these instances. Yet this is the very odd scene in Jeremiah this week. As the city’s walls are literally coming down around them, Jeremiah purchases some land.
As a skeptic and a cynic, my reaction to this idea would immediately be: Yeah right! Look around you buddy. All signs point to destruction. But Jeremiah buys the land.
Since I am naturally cynical and skeptical, I am also highly suspect of religious language. I think there is a need to constantly re-define religious language because it becomes very cliché very quickly. I try to be conscious of this in the way I speak about my own faith.
One of the phrases I get nervous about in my own discussion of faith is this: Death/sin/pain/suffering/etc. does not have the last word.
This idea is reinforced to me through the cycles of Lent and Easter, but I have seen it play out too many times for it not to be true. I think it is one of the truest statements of the Christian faith.
But it can seem like a pat answer. It can seem idealistic and detached from reality. When the hurt and pain really hit, it can even be the last thing you want to hear. But it’s truth is quite liberating in dark moments.
When we suffer, hurt, or go through difficult times, it is easy to think that pain is the most real and true thing in our life. It is easy to feel overwhelmed and like the world is crashing down around us. And the more we give in to this, the more easily we get overwhelmed.
On a gut level, we believe these things have the last word.
It is easy to spot when we have bought into this, because while we may have the best theology on death or resurrection or hope or pain or suffering, our actions determine what we really believe.
When we let our disappointment, hurt, confusion, frustration or suffering cloud our view of everything else, when we let it sideline us or control our lives, we are acting on the belief that this dark time has the last word.
How do we begin to change our gut level beliefs about suffering?
Sometimes investing in hope is the only thing that can do the job.
I think it is important to note here that we cannot discount the real emotion and feeling of difficult times. This idea is not God’s way of saying, “Suck it up, and get over it already.”
God takes our pain and our hurt seriously. So seriously in fact, that Jesus comes to enter into it with us. The pain and the hurt are real and need to be acknowledged and worked through. Sometimes that takes a very long time.
The cross is our vivid picture of Jesus’ willingness to acknowledge and take on our pain. We cannot gloss over it. We need to admit it, confess it, and allow ourselves space to grieve.
But the truth of the cross is pain and suffering do not have the last word.
Jesus takes our hurt so seriously that he enters into it and transforms it.
The vision of life Jesus gives to us is a real acknowledgement of our hurt, and the empowerment to help us use it to live in different and more life-giving ways.
Sometimes we get stuck there. We have grieved and hurt and admitted our pain, but we can’t make the jump to what is next.
We assume the relationship will never change.
We assume our loss we keep us from being happy in the future.
We assume we are broken and cannot be repaired.
We get stuck because we believe this hurt has the last word.
We need to learn from Jeremiah.
In the midst of suffering, Jeremiah invests in hope. He does something which actually required a lot of him. It costs him a pretty good sum of money. I assume it would be an embarrassing conversation. He does something which makes absolutely no sense given the circumstances.
…because he believes this siege does not have the last word.
There will be hope.
There will be a future.
God has not given up.
Maybe we need more of this when we get stuck in our pain. We need to do a costly and absurd thing to invest in hope. We need to actually act on the belief that this pain does not have the last word.
We are being asked to risk that the claim of the cross is true.
This is the nature of faith. Being willing to have the courage to act on what Jesus says is true, even when it seems completely counter-intuitive. True faith requires courage.
But this courage it what keeps the pain from having the last word.