Why has my pain been perpetual And my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Will You indeed be to me like a deceptive stream With water that is unreliable? Therefore, thus says the LORD, “If you return, then I will restore you– Before Me you will stand; And if you extract the precious from the worthless, You will become My spokesman. They for their part may turn to you, But as for you, you must not turn to them.” Jeremiah 15:18-19 [NASB]
I have wrestled for a couple of weeks with the thought of sharing this part of my journey. I’ve been inhibited by a pervasive concern that it is too intimate to effectively share. Not too intimate in the sense that it will require too much vulnerability. But instead, too intimate in the sense that it might be such an intimate encounter with the Lord that I can not adequately convey the magnitude of what happened. However, it has impacted me so profoundly that I have repeatedly felt prompted to share for two weeks now, so I will do my best to put to words at least a portion of what He impressed upon my heart.
Before I share what happened, I need to share my life verse and how I came to choose it as my life verse. I believe it was shortly before Valentine’s Day of 2005. My mom asked me what my favorite verse was. I have always disliked that question because I find it impossible to choose one “favorite.” I might have a favorite for battling discouragement, another for inspiring me to persevere, another for reminding me of the attributes of God, etc, etc. But to narrow it down to one overall favorite literally seems impossible to me. She explained she was wanting to have matching bracelets made for my dear friend and me, each with our “favorite” verses. Touched by her idea, I told her I would pray and think about it, which I did. I can’t remember now how I ended up in Jeremiah. I’m unsure if that’s where I happened to be in my quiet time reading when she asked, or if the Lord led me there on a quest. But somehow I ended up reading Jeremiah 15:16, and in that moment I knew that was the verse for me. I claimed it not as my favorite verse, but as my life verse, longing for it to be the verse that would characterize my life. From that day forward that verse has been very precious to me.
“When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, LORD God Almighty.” Jeremiah 15:16 [NIV]
Fast forward to the week of December 10th, 2017. Several things had recently happened that amplified my awareness of my solitude. My heart was aching with the pain of longing for Sarah, but it was compounded by deep loneliness and the stings of circumstances beyond my influence or control. As I sought the Lord through tears of discouragement the morning of December 13th, I laid my hands on my Bible and pleaded with Him to encourage my weary heart, and to strengthen my weak and trembling legs to enable me to continue to stand. In the desperation of my “aloneness” I searched His Word for encouragement by doing a word search on BlueLetterBible.org for “alone.” Skimming the verses that showed in the results, Jeremiah 15:17 instantly caught my eye and resonated with my heart. I immediately flipped to it in my Bible.
“I did not sit in the circle of merrymakers, Nor did I exult. Because of Your hand upon me I sat alone, For You filled me with indignation.” Jeremiah 15:17 [NASB]
It wasn’t until I opened my Bible to Jeremiah 15 that it connected in my mind that this verse that now resonated with my broken heart was the very next verse following my life verse, claimed and clung to for more than a decade. I then read the remainder of the chapter, and I wept both bitterly and joyfully. It was simultaneously convicting and encouraging. It was as if the Lord audibly spoke and told me He had given me that life verse so long ago for a reason. I thought I had claimed that verse as a goal, but He had claimed it for me as a promise. It was given to me as my identification and my reminder for such a time as this. I clearly discerned Him impressing on my heart that now the remainder of that chapter is His direction for me as well, and I have a choice to make. I can wallow in and waste time dwelling on the worthless, or I can extract the precious and allow Him to wash the worthless away.
The enemy of our souls throws so much worthless our way. He devises scheme after scheme seeking to distract, cripple and destroy us. Worthless thoughts he whispers in our ears to breed fear, doubt and insecurity. Worthless words of gossip he circulates through flaming tongues speaking in ignorance and then delivers to us to scorch our wounded hearts. Worthless tasks and pursuits to distract us from the only worthy goal before us. Worthless burdens designed to weigh us down and enslave us to worldly masters, rendering us ineffective for the only worthy Master. On and on his list of wily schemes of worthlessness goes. He seeks to bury all the precious that the Lord has for us beneath mounds of worthless. But we are called to extract the precious from the worthless. I am called right now, in the midst of my brokenness, to continue to extract the precious from the worthless. In fact, what more opportune time to clearly discern the precious and distinguish it from the worthless than in the midst of the flames of adversity?
“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” 1 Peter 1:6-7 [NASB]
In the midst of the flames of pain, longing and loneliness my desire to be used by Him compels me to beg Him to use those very flames to refine me by clearly revealing that which is precious. Each time I feel the burn of one of the enemy’s schemes I will ask Him to use it as well to reveal the precious to me so that I may “extract it” as a costly gem. I will also ask Him to simultaneously reveal to me that which is worthless so I can forsake it, allowing Him to wash it away. I long to become the spokesman He has called me to be. May I never allow that which is worthless to blind me to, or distract me from that which is precious. Nothing worthless is worthy of sacrificing His plan for me. So through His divine power in me I commit to set my heart to discern and throw off the worthless, so I may increasingly possess and share the precious for His glory and my good.
“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:2-8 [NASB]
Artwork: Sarah Harmening