Do you need a hug? Jeremiah did.

given on Sunday, January 13, 2013

Jeremiah 29:10-13

     10-11 This is God’s Word on the subject: “As soon as Babylon’s seventy years are up and not a day before, I’ll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.

     12 “When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen.

     13-14 “When you come looking for me, you’ll find me.

“Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.” God’s Decree.

“I’ll turn things around for you. I’ll bring you back from all the countries into which I drove you”—God’s Decree—“bring you home to the place from which I sent you off into exile. You can count on it.

No one listens,

No one understands.

I need a HUG!  Do you?

         Every once and a while, life seems to hand you more than you can handle.  The job has demands, the house needs cleaning, the family calls for one thing or another, and the calendar just keeps filling up.  Frustrations add up and suddenly all you want to do is go hide.  No one seems to listen, no one seems to understand, and no one even cares that you are caught up in a whirlpool and are beginning to lose the battle.

Part of the dilemma is the season.  January, February and March can be the longest months of the year.   The weather forces us inside more often than not.  We are financially challenged since Christmas is over and tax season looms over us.  The flu season begins, especially this year as reports indicate record numbers being affected.

Surely this craziness cannot continue!  There must be some way to put life back in order.  What do we need?  A hug sure is nice when you are feeling lost and overwhelmed.  Such a simple gesture that makes us feel safe, secure, and loved.  I know I certainly can use them, and I bet you do, too.

Listening to the radio this week has given me a few audio hugs.  First I stumbled into a new rendition of “Halleluiah.”  A few years ago I head it sung at the Olympics by K.D. Lang.  It literally caused my heart to soar.  I listened to it over and over, realizing it told the story of Samson and Delilah.  The new rendition is by Cloverton.

When those first few notes floated out of the speakers, I instantly recognized them.  Then the voice joined in—it was different, not K.D. Lang, it was a male voice.  But I listened; I listened carefully to the words.  These words were different, not the story of Samson and Delilah.  The words told the Christmas story.  Again, I felt that same of joy as I listened—another audio hug.

Reading about Jeremiah, I realized that no matter how difficult life becomes, it certainly couldn’t be as difficult as Jeremiah’s.  Here was one of God’s chosen prophets living in Judah, the southern part of the Israeli kingdom, who was trying to get the people to understand that God was not happy with what they were doing and that they were going to be destroyed if they did not change.  The people did not listen nor did they understand the full meaning of his prophecies.

Jeremiah did not give up.  The study notes describes his life as a “miserable failure” if measured by our contemporary standards of success:

“. . . For 40 years he served as God’s spokesman to Judah; but when Jeremiah spoke, nobody listened.  Consistently and passionately her urged them to act, but nobody moved.  And he certainly did not attain material success.  He was poor and underwent severe deprivation to deliver his prophecies.  He was thrown into prison and into a cistern, and he was taken to Egypt against his will.  He was rejected by his neighbors, his family, the false priests and prophets, friends, his audience, and the kings.  Throughout his life, Jeremiah stood alone, declaring God’s messages of doom, announcing the new covenant, and weeping over the fate of his beloved country.” (Life Application Bible, NIV, p. 1283)

Jeremiah was a man in need of a hug.  And God never walked away from him, his success was not in man’s eyes, but in God’s eyes.

Jeremiah’s story is ancient.  He lived during the 70 years that Judah was controlled by Babylon.  Reportedly his ministry covered the years 627-586 B.C.  The description of those times sound uncomfortably familiar:

  • Society was deteriorating economically, politically, spiritually.
  • Wars and captivity.
  • God’s word was deemed offensive.  (Ibid. p. 1285)

Jeremiah was working diligently to warn that the people of Judah must repent from their sins, or God’s judgment would be destruction by Babylon.

Repeatedly Jeremiah was ignored.  Much less he was thrown into jail and rejected.  His story may seem completely unrelated to us today, but I know that we are living in a world in which many of the same descriptors apply.  We are living in a time when our society appears to be deteriorating economically, politically, and spiritually.  We have war and we are held captive by a secular world that puts monetary success above our faith’s principles.  And think how our country has tried to cover up God.

In these dark days of winter, the need for a hug can be overwhelming.  We need light, more and more light.  We need God’s light to wrap its arms around us and hug us tightly.  We need to live with confidence knowing that God determines our success by what we do and how we live, not by the dollars tucked into a bank account or by the size of our house and the make of our car.  God measures success through our lives loving one another.

Today’s scripture, Jeremiah 29:11-13, is included in Lisa Guest’s book of 100 Favorite Bible Verses.  Her comments equate these verses to a flashlight in the middle of a dark winter night when the power has gone out.  She states:

. . . There’s nothing like a hug when the world seems to have turned against you.  And there’s nothing like good news when the hurts of the past weigh you down, when the burdens of the present overwhelm, and when the future looks bleak.  Today’s passage was something like that flashlight, that hug, and that bit of good news for the Jews who were still being held captive to Babylon.”  (p. 207)

Jeremiah writes those verses in a letter he wrote to the surviving elders and priests who were living in exile.  The Babylonians had moved them from Jerusalem to Babylon.  In Babylon they were to continue living productive lives, raising families, and following God.  In the end, they would be freed.

Even in the shortest days of winter, when the sun is hidden, when the cold sets in, when flu hits, we are to remain with God.  We are not forgotten; God is still caring for us—even 2500 years later than Jeremiah was telling his peers.  God knows when our spirits are so deflated or when our lives are overloaded with demands.  He knows when we need a hug, a dependable light in the storm.

Never give up.  Remember God is with us at all times.  When we allow him to reside with us, to pay attention to him, and to live our lives under his one rule, then we will see the light grow in the dark.  We will see that the dreary, burdensome days do not control us, but the glory of God, his light, shines around us.  That light shining around us is God’s hug.  The hugs we share among us are also God’s hugs.

The last audio hug came when the DJ’s were talking about the latest quotes people were sharing.  One from Victor Hugo’s Les Miserable, were KLUV’s morning DJs favorites:  “To love another person is to see the face of God.”  Hearing that discussion and thinking about that quote brought the morning’s sunlight into the car and gave me a hug.

Dear Loving God,

Our days may overwhelm us with a sense of darkness,

   but we listen for your wisdom and guidance.

Days may fill with frustrations that clutter our lives,

   but show us solutions and keep your light around us.

Illness may spread from home to home,

   but wrap us up in healthy practices to keep us protected.

When we fail to keep our lives centered on You,

   send word through our prayers together, through family and friends.

Guide us with words like those of Jeremiah,

   with music like Lang and Cloverton, and discussions like the DJs.

Let us experience the hugs you send in so many ways,

   so difficult days are diminished by our love for one another.  –Amen


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