God always knows precisely where we are.
This was illustrated quite dramatically for me recently after preaching a sermon on Jeremiah 38. In the passage, Jeremiah is lowered into a dry cistern by some unsavory characters who don’t like what he is preaching––even though he’s only preaching precisely what God had told him to say. The key verse reads:
So they took Jeremiah and put him into the cistern of Malkijah, the king’s son, which was in the courtyard of the guard. They lowered Jeremiah by ropes into the cistern; it had no water in it, only mud, and Jeremiah sank down into the mud. Jer. 38:6
In the end, Jeremiah is rescued and hauled out of the cistern, and his time in the cistern ends up shaping his future ministry. For he later prophecies to the King saying:
All the women left in the palace of the king of Judah will be brought out to the officials of the king of Babylon. Those women will say to you: “‘They misled you and overcame you — those trusted friends of yours. Your feet are sunk in the mud; your friends have deserted you.’ Jer. 38:22
After the service, we found out a most incredible thing that had happened to the pastor and his family.
A few years prior, the pastor of this church and his wife had been living in a house that was situated sort of in a gully, at the bottom of two steep hills. During a particularly heavy rain one evening, the pastor, his wife, and their four children were all sitting in their living room. Suddenly, there was a loud crash of lightening outside and the power went out. A few minutes later, they heard a loud noise, and a massive wave of water and mud caming crashing through their front door. Within minutes they were up to their chests in water and up to their knees in mud and garbage that had washed in from the street. They were completely stuck and were unable to move. The could do nothing but stand in that water and mud all night long, until morning when someone came and rescued them.
That night was a night of both miracles and misery. Had the power not gone out, they would have surely been electrocuted. But, because of the mud and water, they lost everything! All of their money (most Zambians can’t afford banks), all of their clothes, all of their furniture, family pictures, keepsakes. All of it, gone.
In preparing for my sermon that week, I had no idea how relevant it would be to this pastor and his wife. I could not have possibly known. I had only recently come across this passage in my daily devotions and was moved by it and thought it would be an encouragement to those going through hard times.
And now that I know what this family went through, I am vividly reminded that God does not forget, that he always knows precisely where we are, even when we’re stuck in the mud. And just like Jeremiah, God often uses our time in the mud to shape our life and our ministry for the future.
And perhaps, that formation could never really take place if our feet always stayed firmly planted on solid ground.
Today the family is in a new house. A lady who saw them being rescued on television gave them her furniture. The pastor’s wife was recently healed of what appeared to be a terminal illness. A few months ago she was in a hospice, and thus today, they are out of the mud, in more ways than one.
It is likely, that they, like all of us, will be in the mud again some day.
But I am increasingly convinced that truly effective ministry flows from primarily two things: our time with the Lord, and our time in the mud. And we should be careful not to neglect the importance of either one.