William Cowper was the poet responsible for the hymn “God Moves in a Mysterious Way.” He was a devoted follower of Jesus Christ who struggled with depression most of his adult life. He attempted to take his own life on three occasions and at one point was even placed in an asylum.
We have already seen that God’s servants are sometimes so disappointed that they can wish they had never been born. Job felt this way. Elijah did, too. In today’s passage Jeremiah curses the day he was born (v. 14). It is striking to note that in the biblical text, Jeremiah expresses this disturbing sentiment immediately after an outburst of praise in verse 13.
These are not the words of a backslider or someone with a shallow faith. Jeremiah was a man of deep faith who had an intimate relationship with God. He knew how to communicate with God as with a friend. It is significant that these words appear in a context of worship. Jeremiah’s painful lament is a reminder that true worship is not a matter of putting on our best clothes and our Sunday smiles as we mouth pious words that we do not really mean. True worship is a matter of fearlessly approaching the throne of grace and bringing with us all our doubts, distress, and hard questions.
At the same time, it is important to note how God responds to Jeremiah’s cry of anguish. Jeremiah concludes his prayer with the bitter question of verse 18: “Why did I ever come out of the womb to see trouble and sorrow and to end my days in shame?” But God does not provide an answer. How are we to understand this silence of God? We should interpret it as the patient response of a loving Father who knows that there are times when the best thing to do is simply to listen.