The words of the prophet Jeremiah above are the just beginning of a litany of lines about God’s hand being against him. For the prophet Jeremiah, he had no use talking about his own suffering as if God could not have somehow prevented the suffering. In fact, Jeremiah wrote his lamentation with conviction that God was the inflicter of his pain, which seems terrible.
How does one pray to God when this is how God relates to us? How, if Jeremiah is right, can we approach God in prayer if it seems like His hand is against us?
Two simple answers:
1) Though God sends suffering our way, he also sends all mercies our way. In perhaps the most striking contrast in all the Bible we see that this same prophet that reflected on how God was against him with lines like this, “He has broken my teeth with gravel” then turned and recognized the flip side of God’s control, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
We cannot blame God for our sufferings without also recognizing his many mercies–the air we breathe, the blood circulating through our bodies, and the sun that gives life to all humanity. I could go and on, and so could you. We can pray to God when suffering comes, and it never comes outside of God’s purview, precisely because blessings never come from any other source either. For the person with an open heart, they will see God’s blessings are many, even when God’s afflictions are many.
2) God takes suffering and uses it to bless us. For those like the prophet that knew God, it is very possible to say God is using even our suffering for our benefit. Like the medical team that injects an anesthetic into our bodies causing pain, ultimately God uses pain for our best. In fact, some might say, God hardly uses anything else for our ultimate good. This is the precise means God uses to form us into people that love our temporary toys less, and learn to see the value of love and life more.
We can pray to God when we suffer because we trust that God is doing something far better for us in our afflictions than we know. Both of these truths help us to pray in the midst of life’s deep pains.