When Life is Uncertain

Originally published Friday, 17 August 2018.

Life is filled with questions: What should I do? How will I do ____? Why did ___ happen?

For the believer, it’s no different. We wonder why God allowed a particular hardship into our lives. We wonder how we will endure a season of suffering. When we stand at a crossroads, we wonder which way we should go. When we encounter obstacles, we desire wisdom to know how to get around them. When life is confusing and uncertain, we want direction, purpose, and certainty.

Jeremiah’s Uncertainty

The prophet Jeremiah found himself faced with uncertainty, questions, and a desire to know what to do. Jeremiah had been called to speak to God’s people about pending judgement for their sin. He prophesied that Babylon would conquer them and take them into captivity. As Babylon surrounded the city of Jerusalem and besieged it, Jeremiah was locked up in prison by the king, Zedekiah for prophesying about their pending capture. God then told Jeremiah to do a curious thing: purchase a piece of land.

“The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD in the tenth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar. At that time the army of the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem, and Jeremiah the prophet was shut up in the court of the guard that was in the palace of the king of Judah…Jeremiah said, “The word of the LORD came to me: Behold, Hanamel the son of Shallum your uncle will come to you and say, ‘Buy my field that is at Anathoth, for the right of redemption by purchase is yours.’ Then Hanamel my cousin came to me in the court of the guard, in accordance with the word of the LORD, and said to me, ‘Buy my field…’” (Jeremiah 32:1-2,6-8).

Buy a field at a time when Jerusalem is under attack and will be taken away into captivity? Doesn’t that conflict with what God said would happen? Zedekiah was so offended by Jeremiah’s prophesy of captivity, he had him arrested. Wouldn’t buying a field say that Jeremiah didn’t believe his own prophecy?

Jeremiah’s Prayer

Jeremiah obeyed the Lord and purchased the field. After he purchased the land, he was still confused and concerned about it. So he prayed to the Lord.

“After I had given the deed of purchase to Baruch the son of Neriah, I prayed to the LORD, saying: ‘Ah, Lord GOD! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you” (Jeremiah 32:16-17).

Many times, we as believers find ourselves in a season of life, a crossroads, a trial, and don’t understand what is happening. We don’t know what God is doing or why. Like Jeremiah, we believe and trust God, but still feel confused and uncertain. Like Jeremiah, we obey and follow God’s word, but still have doubts. Jeremiah’s prayer here is helpful for us as we deal with our own uncertainties. We too ought to cry out to God, asking the tough questions.

Jeremiah began his prayer focusing on who God is and what he has done. He praised God for his power and sovereignty, for his love and faithfulness (see vv. 16-20). Then he rehearsed the history of redemption, of God’s salvific work in rescuing them from slavery and bringing them to the Promised Land.

“You brought your people Israel out of the land of Egypt with signs and wonders, with a strong hand and outstretched arm, and with great terror. And you gave them this land, which you swore to their fathers to give them, a land flowing with milk and honey” (vv. 21-22).

Jeremiah then moved to the present where Babylon was building siege ramps to attack Jerusalem. He prayed, “What you spoke has come to pass, and behold, you see it” (v. 24). He ends his prayer, expressing his concern, confusion, and doubt, “Yet you, O Lord GOD, have said to me, “Buy the field for money and get witnesses”—though the city is given into the hands of the Chaldeans.’” (v. 25).

When We Have Doubts

In our own prayers, we too need to remember who God is and what he has done. We too can rehearse the story of redemption in our prayers. On this side of the cross, we rehearse the gospel. We remember that the promised Redeemer came and rescued us from slavery to sin. We remember that God wrapped himself in human flesh and incarnated himself among us. We dwell on Jesus’ perfect life, death, and resurrection. We rejoice that we have a Savior who knows our sorrows and wept tears of his own. We look to our future hope in eternity.

As Jeremiah did, we also pray about God’s character, who he is in his sovereignty and power, his love and faithfulness, his wisdom and justice. We see all these traits meet in the person and work of Christ. All that God has promised has come to pass. His word is true and sure.

Like Jeremiah, we can present our questions, our concerns, our fears, and our doubts. We can ask, “why?” “how?” “what?” Because of Jesus, we can come to the throne of grace with confidence and find grace to help us in our time of need (Heb. 4:16).

Ultimately, we learn that God will bring the people back to the land. He will keep his covenant with them. The purpose in Jeremiah purchasing the land was to show that the land would still be there for their return. It was to point to a future hope (see vv. 36-44).

Life in this fallen world is hard. We have many questions. Sometimes life is so shrouded with the fog of uncertainty, it’s hard to know where to go next. We struggle with doubts. Yet, even when we don’t understand what is happening, we obey God’s word. And we cry out to him in prayer. We remind ourselves that though we don’t know or understand the future, God does. We remember all he has done for us in Christ. It’s not the strength of our faith that sustains us during confusing times. It’s who our faith is in. It’s the object of our faith which carries us through: Jesus Christ. Turn to him and remember your God today.