By Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur
You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped; you were too strong for me, and you triumphed — Jeremiah 20:7.
While reflecting on this passage from Jeremiah, I looked up the meaning of the word “duped.” According to Dictionary.com, it means “to be tricked or deceived.” That doesn’t sound very good, does it? None of us likes to be tricked, and the idea that God “tricks” us is certainly an unpleasant one. Jeremiah was a reluctant prophet. Like many before and after him, when God called, he tried to politely say “No, thank you.” God persisted and Jeremiah relented. His job was to preach of the captivity of Jerusalem. He was a prophet of doom and gloom and no one wanted to hear about it. As a result, he was rejected by everyone and ultimately branded a traitor. As a result, here in Chapter 20 we find him lamenting. His laments actually lead him to curse the very day he was born (Jer. 20:14). Obviously, this was not the life he would have chosen.
Are there times in your own life when you feel God has duped you? Perhaps God has asked you to do something you just don’t want to do. It need not be a big thing. It could be befriending the person everyone else has rejected. It could be teaching religious education or volunteering in your child’s school. Maybe God is asking you to change careers or be more generous or reach out to that neighbor who you have never really gotten along with. Perhaps, like Jeremiah, you have tried to politely decline the invitation. Maybe you have even looked around to see if there was someone else more suitable to the task. “Surely, God, you aren’t talking to me? You must be looking for Amy three houses down!” Never-the-less, God persisted and you ended up doing what He wanted.
It would be wonderful if we did God’s will and life turned out great for us. Sometimes it does. Responding to a call can bring greater personal fulfillment, an important new friendship, or open doors that we never even knew existed. Sometimes, however, it can leave us feeling like Jeremiah. We may become outcasts for standing up for what we know is right. The person to whom we extended our hand in friendship may reject us. The career change may leave us underpaid and unappreciated. Like the prophet, we may feel that God tricked us, and that even worse, we allowed it to happen. We may be kicking ourselves for following the call, for not being strong enough to resist the power of God. We may even come to rue our very existence.
Yet, what is the alternative? If we reject God’s call, where does that leave us? We do have choices. God will respect our free wills, although He definitely will keep pushing us in the ways we are meant to go. We might look at the road not taken and feel that it is better, easier, smoother. For us, however, that was not the road we were meant to take. It may be smoother, but it is not the road that leads to our salvation. It is not the road that allows us to live as God intended us to live. Yes, it may seem that God has triumphed and in the process caused us to fail, but only God knows the final outcome which may be greater than we could ever imagine.