Managing in the Thicket

I’ve been thinking about Jeremiah 12:5 recently. I remember reading this verse in college because it’s how God rebukes Jeremiah for his attitude and concerns. Back then, I read this verse as inspiration to endure what I considered “hard things” as training for the even harder things that might come upon me in my life. I was right; life got harder. God asks this question:

“If you have raced with men on foot
    and they have worn you out,
    how can you compete with horses?
If you stumble in safe country,
    how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?

I’m learning to grow through trial, to get stronger emotionally, spiritually, and physically. I want to thrive in the thickets by the Jordan (often seen as a symbol of difficulty). I want to run with horses. But I cannot if simple, trivial things wear me out. So I ask myself: What wears me out now? What makes me stumble now? What if, in a few years, these same things that wearied me now weren’t concerns at all? What if, year after year, I became more capable to endure hardship? What if, I became like the wise person in James 1 who, after rejoicing in trials (and the perseverance they bring), becomes mature and complete, not lacking anything?

Mature and complete, not lacking anything. Can you imagine? Lord, make us this way!

Emotional fortitude isn’t my strongest trait. I’m the one crying in the airplane when a flight delay keeps me sitting on the runway for hours, only to endure a canceled flight and then an all-nighter to wait for the next one. Meanwhile, Ash sits beside me, ready for any adventure. He’s laughing about it and caring for other stranded travelers while I fall apart. Me? What did I learn? What would it have taken for me to find the emotional strength that wasn’t there that night?

I like journaling about these things. I like recalling the promises of God, taking note of what most unsettles me (and how to prepare for it in the future). I like to measure emotional growth. Meanwhile, I know that what most challenges me involves uncertainty and physical discomfort. May God teach us how to joyfully endure when we are in the thicket.

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