Jeremiah 12:1-5 (New Living Translation)
1 Lord, you always give me justice
when I bring a case before you.
So let me bring you this complaint:
Why are the wicked so prosperous?
Why are evil people so happy?
2 You have planted them,
and they have taken root and prospered.
Your name is on their lips,
but you are far from their hearts.
3 But as for me, Lord, you know my heart.
You see me and test my thoughts.
Drag these people away like sheep to be butchered!
Set them aside to be slaughtered!
4 How long must this land mourn?
Even the grass in the fields has withered.
The wild animals and birds have disappeared
because of the evil in the land.
For the people have said,
“The Lord doesn’t see what’s ahead for us!”
(The Lord’s Reply to Jeremiah:)
5 “If racing against mere men makes you tired,
how will you race against horses?
If you stumble and fall on open ground,
what will you do in the thickets near the Jordan?
Eugene Peterson says that God’s answer to Jeremiah was this:
Life is difficult, Jeremiah. Are you going to quit at the first wave of opposition? Are you going to retreat when you find that there is more to life than finding three meals a day and a dry place to sleep at night? Are you going to run home the minute you find that the mass of men and women are more interested in keeping their feet warm than in living at risk to the glory of God? Are you going to live cautiously or courageously? I called you to live at your best, to pursue righteousness, to sustain a drive toward excellence. It is easier, I know, to be neurotic. It is easier to be parasitic. It is easier to relax in the embracing arms of The Average. Easier, but not better. Easier, but not more significant. Easier, but not more fulfilling. I called you to live a life of purpose far beyond what you think yourself capable of living and promised you adequate strength to fulfill your destiny. Now at the first sign of difficulty you are ready to quit. If you are fatigued by this run-of-the-mill crowd of apathetic mediocrities, what will you do when the real race starts, the race with the swift and determined horses of excellence? What is it you really want, Jeremiah? Do you want to shuffle along with the crowd, or run with the horses?
It is understandable that there are retreats from excellence, veerings away from risk, withdrawals from faith. It is easier to define oneself minimally (“a featherless biped”) and live securely within that definition than to be defined maximally (“a little less than God”) and live adventurously in that reality. It is unlikely, I think, that Jeremiah was spontaneous or quick in his reply to God’s question. The ecstatic ideals for a new life had been splattered with the world’s cynicism. The euphoric impetus of youthful enthusiasm no longer carried him. He weighed the options. He counted the cost. He tossed and turned in hesitation. The response when it came was not verbal but biographical. His life became his answer. “I’ll run with the horses.”*
The thing I note about God’s answer is that God challenges Jeremiah to look at things differently. Jeremiah complains to God and, rather that hearing soft words of comfort, Jeremiah hears a rebuke. God says, “This is not about you Jeremiah! Get over yourself. I have plans for this world that you cannot comprehend. You are not yet living up to the potential I see in you. Stop complaining about how hard this task is. I am calling you to something harder!”
I too have a choice before me today. Will I complain to God about how hard it is to run a footrace with men? Or, will I get up and run with horses?
*Peterson, E. H. (2009). Run With The Horses. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, p. 21, 22.