Week of Monday, February 1 ­– Saturday, February 6
Pious Pity Party – Man as a Chaplain

“Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name. O Lord, God of hosts. I did not sit in the company of revelers, nor did I rejoice; I sat alone, because your hand was upon me, for you had filled me with indignation. Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Will you be to me like a deceitful brook, like waters that fail?” — Jeremiah 15:16-18

Ever been disappointed with God? Join the club. Maybe God didn’t bail you out in a tight spot or answer your cry for help the way you hoped. Or maybe He was silent for a time and you felt abandoned and wondered if He even exists. Or maybe you thought you were following His directions, but it only got you into more trouble. I’m sure at one time or another you have found yourself in a disappointing situation like that. I know I have.

That’s where Jeremiah found himself here in chapter 15. God called him to be a prophet and speak difficult words to an even more difficult people. At first it was a “joy and the delight of my heart” as he testifies in v. 16. But as Jeremiah faithfully delivered God’s message, then came the reality of what God told him would happen all along (see 1:17-19). The people didn’t like it. Not one bit. Because of that, he was ostracized, persecuted, and eventually imprisoned. So he had himself a “pious pity party.” Ever had one of those? Let me assure you that I have felt the same feeling multiple times in my life.

In his depressed state, Jeremiah came to a couple of conclusions. First was that it would have been better if he had never been born (v. 10). Second was that God had somehow “gamed” him, pulled a bait and switch, and made a promise but failed to deliver. In a mix of hurt and anger, the prophet made this accusation: “God you said you are the ‘fountain of living waters’ (2:13) but it looks like you are just a seasonal stream that dries up when I need you most” (v. 18). Basically, he is whining: “God you put me in front of these people to deliver your message, which I have done faithfully by the way, and I turned around and you are nowhere to be found. I thought you had my back. Where were you when I needed you?”

Many of you have heard me recount the events surrounding the Battle of Mogadishu that were made into the movie Black Hawk Down and its tragic aftermath. Though we inflicted tremendous casualties on a determined and fanatical enemy, I lost some good men, brave men, some of America’s finest. Identifying the bodies and surveying their flag-draped coffins before transport back to the states are moments forever burned into my memory. It was tough.

As I relate in Never Surrender and at our Stand Courageous men’s conferences, I became angry with God. I had prayed for their safety and success, and this was the result? “Where were you?” I prayed. “Why did you let these men down why did you abandon us?” But there was no answer. So I concluded: “There is no God.” This was after having been a believer for 23 years. There I sat, denying the very existence of God. But as soon as I had that thought, the Holy Spirit spoke to me: “If there’s no God, there’s no hope.” And immediately I repented of my sin, God forgave me, and then directed me to Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” That’s tough to do, but that is all we can do because we will never understand certain things in life since we do not have the mind of God.

Notice how God handled Jeremiah’s accusation, his pity party. He didn’t blast Jeremiah with judgment. God simply told Jeremiah: “If you return (repent), I will restore you” (15:19). God then promised to renew Jeremiah’s call to serve as a prophet (v. 19b) with this promise: “And I will make you to this people a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you, but they shall not prevail over you, for I am with you to save you and deliver you, declares the Lord” (v. 20).

We all have those moments when we question God’s goodness or even His existence. We all experience feelings of disappointment with God. But if we are going to be spiritual leaders and chaplains, we must shake ourselves out of “navel gazing mode” and lock into “Scripture gazing mode” and find God’s perspective in our difficult circumstances. As Jeremiah discovered, obeying the Lord is not always sunshine and roses. It is tough sometimes. But I can tell you this from experience and from His word: He will never leave us nor forsake us. He told Jeremiah: “I am with you…” Remember that the next time you have one of those pious pity parties.

  • God can handle your questions, your doubts, even your accusations. He is gracious and merciful and patient. Yet He also requires repentance before renewal (v. 19). Are you holding a grudge against God that needs to be resolved?
  • When you questioned God‘s goodness or even His existence, what helped bring you out of that “pious pity party” back into relationship with God? Do you know anyone who may be going through something similar who you may be able to coach as a Chaplain?
  • Ask God to help continue that shift from “navel gazing” to “Scripture gazing” mode to get His perspective on what He is doing in your life. Claim the promise of His presence.