The famous artist Donatello completed a life-size marble sculpture of the prophet Jeremiah in 1427. If you visited the museum in Florence, Italy, you’d note that Jeremiah looks fatigued, even exhausted. His face suggests profound sadness and frustration as well as a hint of inner turmoil.
After reading today’s passage, we can understand why God’s prophet would be profoundly discouraged. On the one hand, he was regularly receiving and preaching messages from the Lord. These words burned in him like fire, but he felt like a hammer trying to break rocks (v. 9; Jer. 5:14; 23:29). No one was listening! Even worse, despite great effort, his ministry was bearing no apparent fruit. Earlier in chapter 20, a priest named Pashhur had Jeremiah beaten and put in the stocks for his prophecy in chapter 19.
So we are not surprised that Jeremiah complained (vv. 7–10): The word of the Lord had brought him only “insult and reproach all day long.” In a sense, God was to blame for His prophet’s suffering. But Jeremiah felt compelled or even coerced to continue proclaiming the word of the Lord. His calling was overpowering, even though he knew what it would cost him (see also Mark 8:34–35).
Despite his discouragement, Jeremiah expressed confidence in the Lord to save him (Jer. 20:11–13). The LORD is a “mighty warrior.” The prophet may be discouraged and weary of the battle, but his faith had not weakened. He even called on his hearers, “Sing to the LORD!” (v. 13).
Jeremiah ended his reflections with a complaint (vv. 14–18): “Cursed be the day I was born!” he cried, expressing his anguish at knowing he’d see Jerusalem and the Temple burn in judgment.
There were no easy answers for Jeremiah’s situation, but he did the right thing by taking it to the Lord in prayer. There may be no easy answers for the situation you are facing either but remember that no problem is too big for God!
Extended reading: Jeremiah 19–20