Thursday, May 19, 2011

Jeremiah 45 – Pray Not for Success, But Contentment

“Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, to you, O Baruch: You said, ‘Woe is me! The LORD has added sorrow to my pain; I am weary with my groaning, and I find no rest.’

“Thus you [Jeremiah] shall say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD: I am going to break down what I have built, and pluck up what I have planted — that is, the whole land. And you, do you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them; for I am going to bring disaster upon all flesh, says the LORD; but I will give you your life as a prize of war in every place to which you may go’.”

~Jeremiah 45:2-5 (NRSV).

Human beings are apt at playing the numbers game. Whether it’s production numbers, savings in bank accounts, counting the toys we own, or the number of connections we have over social media, we consider success or failure — if we’re trapped — by numbers.

Numbers provide meaning of success.

But there’s never any lasting peace there.

Baruch, son of Neriah, was Jeremiah’s faithful secretary, but like Jeremiah he was given to lament. Being fair, our laments, like Baruch’s, are usually a fair way out of whack with the God-agenda.

True Success is Not What We Think It Is or Go After

This is a horrible truth because we know it, yet struggle to live it.

We unwittingly disobey God when we continue to go after things that, in terms of success, are transient at best. We need to be reminded of this propensity to wander from God’s golden way, nevertheless we still struggle because of the weighty burden of our flesh; the residue of the sinful nature.

Pure and simple we want success; we’re geared to compare. Enters here does the sin of envy, convoluted with greed, lust and pride.

But as we turn back to Jeremiah 45, we find God is reminding Baruch, through Jeremiah, that there are bigger things at stake; that his focus was misdirected. Rather than small things Baruch desired — those he considered “great” — God was giving him the truly great thing.

Focusing on his small world concern, Baruch — like us, when we do it — was destined for fatigue and, ultimately, despair. We hear this in his despairing words. We know it, also, in our despairing moments.

We try too hard to succeed.

Our focus, like Baruch’s, tends to stray from that which God gives us freely, onto the things we so desire but very rarely will we ever achieve. Besides these latter things are treacherously unsustainable. God knows this, and he implores us to desist from seeking these ‘great things’ for ourselves. God knows they’ll end in our fatigue and despair.

Contentment Is In Matters of Letting Go

We cannot achieve peace and success at the same time unless we find success in peace.

This is usually going to take a world of effort; a long transformation or a learned habit over time. What drives this, of course, is the acceptance of the God-theory: we cannot be satisfied beyond God. It is in God that we will find all our peace, to the rejection of success, and all matters attending.

We stop looking at what others have and what we do not have.

We start to look at the things that God has already given us; we focus our attention there. What wonderful acquisitions we all have.

We stop fixating on the goals that drive us, and instead we simply accept our best results, finding the inspiration and time to celebrate them.

We change our foci from success to contentment; it’s simply a change of mind, and continuing so, each day and a moment at a time.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

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