It's a long time from the first chapter of Jeremiah to chapter twenty. Think how amazing it must have been for Jeremiah to hear from God: Before I even formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were even born, I set you apart as a prophet to speak to my people. Yes, you, Jeremiah. I chose you.
It's GOD speaking to him. Calling him. Telling him not to be afraid. God says, "I am with you--I will rescue you. I will give you words to speak. I will give you visions."
Yes, God speaks, Jeremiah obeys; he speaks, but the people reject his words. He sees visions, but those visions torment him during the day and haunt him at night. God rescues him regularly, from assassination plots, from beatings, and from prison. And so far none of his prophecies have been fulfilled.
Life hasn't worked out the way Jeremiah thought it would. It's like this--he doesn't like what his life has become, but he's seen God in all his glory; he's experienced God's presence, and there's just no way he can turn back.
In chapter 20, Jeremiah pours out his frustration, his disappointment, and his anger to God: You lied to me, and I believed you! I you overpowered me! And what do I get? All day long people make mock me and insult me. And you keep giving me things to say, and those words burn inside of me so that even if I wanted to just keep them to myself, I couldn't.
He switches gears in verse 11: God is with me. He is my mighty warrior. In the end, the plots and the beatings don't matter. God will win. Praise be to God!
And finally, despair sinks in: It's too much. I wish I had never been born.
Three things strike me about this passage.
First, it's okay to be honest with God. It's okay to tell him how we really feel. God can take it. In fact, he already knows what we're feeling. This seems like Jeremiah giving up, but it's really more like Jeremiah wrestling with God, working out his obedience.
Second, sometimes serving God is hard. Things don't always work out the way we think they will. Sometimes we feel like God lied to us. Sometimes we want to quit. I've never thought, "I wish I wasn't born" or "I wish I were dead," but I know people who struggle with those ideas, and I need to say--these are really amazing Christ followers who love God, who are like Jeremiah and will take risks for him at all cost. It's just that sometimes despair sinks in deep. They are continually learning that God is bigger than the despair. They learn to cling to God determinedly, and he is their source of life.
Third, God doesn't reject Jeremiah.
That's the best part.