“Lord you always give me justice when I bring a case before you. So let me bring you this complaint: Why are the wicked so prosperous? Why are evil people so happy?” (Jeremiah 12:1 NLT)
Jeremiah faced an inner struggle that has puzzled people for centuries. “Why do bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people?” Jeremiah wasn’t the only servant of God who has struggled with this theological dilemma. Righteous Job wrestled with this same problem, “Why do the wicked prosper, growing old and powerful?” (Job 21:7 NLT) Psalmists David and Asaph (Ps. 49 and 73), along with the prophets Habakkuk (Heb. 1:16-17) and Malachi (Mal. 2:17;3:15) grappled with the same problem.
Jeremiah saw the land being desolated and innocent people suffering while the leaders who caused the problem prospered and lived in luxury. In verse 3 of chapter 12, Jeremiah expresses how he thinks God should deal with these evil people, “Drag these people away like sheep to be butchered! Set them aside to be slaughtered!” Jeremiah sounded a lot like James and John who wanted Jesus to allow them to “call down fire from heaven to burn up” the Samaritans for not allowing them to pass through their village. (Luke 9:54)
Jeremiah asked the same question that many of us ask when difficult circumstances arise. How long do I have to endure this pain? Why did this happen? “Why?” and “How long?” are questions that are easy to ask and difficult to answer.
God’s reply to Jeremiah wasn’t what he expected to hear. Instead of focusing his attention upon the wicked, God turned his attention upon Jeremiah. Three truths are revealed that can also be applied to our lives today. (1) Living a godly life isn’t easy; it’s like running a race (12:5). We are running a marathon; not a sprint. (2) A servant’s life becomes harder, not easier. It is not easy when your own family turns against you (12:6). (3) Maturity makes our life of service enjoyable.
Warren Wiersbe in his commentary “Be Decisive”, page 72 says, “God’s servants don’t live by explanations; they live by promises.” You may become smarter with explanations, but you build character by trusting in God’s promises. Instead of asking, “How can I get out of this,” we should ask “What can I get out of this.”