A Devotion: Where Is God in the Desert?
Read: Jeremiah 16:14-17:18
An excerpt: “Thus says the Lord: Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength, whose hearts turn away from the Lord. They shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when relief comes. They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.”
The water of Flint, MI, Jackson, MS, and countless other communities across the United States is polluted with the carcass of the detestable idol of greed. We know and declare in Jesus’ name that the Creator and Redeemer is working to restore all things. We know and declare in Jesus’ name that the Righteous One will hold to account those who poisoned people to save a few copper coins.
But to the brothers and sisters who are living in a desert created by the enemies of peace, what do we say? Admonishments to wait and trust in the Lord seem like a slap in the face to a mother facing the prospect of losing her children because she won’t pay for poisoned water. We know our God can make a way out of no way, we know our God is with us in the desert, we hear the word of the Lord who tells Jeremiah that, “Like the partridge hatching what it did not lay, so are all who amass wealth unjustly; in mid-life it will leave them, and at their end they will prove to be fools.” But we feel helpless to comfort those who wearily endure day after day after day of misery, corruption, and decay.
When Jeremiah heard the word of God, he seemed a little doubtful, too. “Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved.” We’re not healed or saved yet, God. We need you to come. “See how they say to me, ‘Where is the word of the Lord? Let it come!’” Where are you in Flint, God? Come. Where are you in Jackson, God? Come. Where are you in Wheaton, God? Come! Where are you in Philadelphia, God? Come! “Do not become a terror to me; you are my refuge in the day of disaster…” Don’t let us down, God. Show us your face, show us your power, show us your peace, show us your wisdom, show us your reconciliation. Because You are God, and we are not.
Because God can water the desert and I can not, perhaps the most faithful thing I can do in this moment is lament, cry out. Perhaps staying in the broken, helpless place is where I will be vulnerable enough to feel God’s healing work begin. Perhaps doing so will help me to see other places in my life where I have played the savior and failed to do the humbling work of reconciliation.
But like Jeremiah, I will beg God to keep me from shame and dismay. I will raise my lament not only to God, but to the poisoning powers to say, “No more! Feel the disaster and destruction you have brought on the people of this land.” I will align myself with the brokenhearted, enter into their pain as best I can, entwine my fate with theirs.
Let us pray: Almighty God, let your cold water cleanse the tears of those who have been poisoned by the greed and neglect of the powerful. Quench our thirst for righteousness and restore the bodies of your people. God, we may want vengeance, but show us your reconciliation, instead. Come to the broken places, come to the broken people, both the powerful and powerless, and restore us, O God. Make your face shine on us. Amen.