In His Grip

In His Grip, © 2015, Lynn Abbott Studios. Used with permission

© 2015 Lynn Abbott

“It’s too hod,” he said.

I stifled a smile as my witty neighbor Pat rolled her eyes, and walked toward  her three-year-old and his tricycle.

He’d had it with riding his trike for the day.  So, little Aaron climbed off his tricycle and started walking home.

Pat, who possessed the patience of a saint, gently prompted him, “What about your tricycle? You can’t leave it in the middle of the sidewalk.  Someone else will take it home.”

My son, only 18 months at the time– stared at the “big boy” and I could almost read my toddler’s thoughts. Undoubtedly, with childlike wisdom, Matt most certainly pondered the possibility of free transportation.

Aaron, having carefully considered his mother’s argument,  took a few, halting steps toward his trike before announcing once more, “It’s too hod.”

Pat winked at me, and I could see that she too struggled to hold back laughter.  However, she focused on the lesson at hand.

Taking a deep breath, she responded, “It’s not too hard.  I’ll walk with you.”  And with that, Pat stepped toward the tricycle and reached for one of the handle bars.

“Here,” she said pragmatically.  “I’ll take one handle and you take the other.  We’ll walk it home together.”

Matt looked decidedly disappointed when Aaron finally shuffled back to the tricycle.  Although he grumbled about being hot and tired, Aaron nevertheless did his best to help.

Matt would have to wait until Christmas to become a proud owner of his very own tricycle.

Of course, I couldn’t help it.

I just had to retell this positively entertaining anecdote to my mother and my husband.  We laughed together.  It was “hod” not to laugh.

Art Linkletter got it right.  Kids do say the darndest things.

To this day, my sense of humor gets the best of me whenever I face what seems to me to be an insurmountable task. I invariably think of Aaron and that tricycle.

Uh, huh. You better believe it.

“It’s too hod,” I announce at the top of my voice. Then, we all burst out laughing. Aaron’s story lives on as a kind of family mantra, eliciting good humor on difficult days.

But in all honesty, I must confess:  sometimes, as I face life’s challenges, I turn to Abba and say very seriously, “It’s too hod.”

I imagine He stifles a huge grin.

“I want to give up,” I whinge.  “I’m so done with this.  I’m exhausted…”

“It’s too hod,” I repeat with a whimper.

I think Jeremiah felt much the same when he carried out his overwhelming role as God’s prophet .

Jeremiah. Now, there’s a guy who had been given a thankless task. He spent his entire life fishing for Abba and never made a catch.

Of course, no one likes the bearer of bad news.  And Jeremiah earned his nickname “the weeping prophet.”

He presided over Judah as it sputtered and fizzled.  His prophetic warnings ignored by the Jewish public, Jeremiah watched Babylon destroy his beloved capital city and carry its people into captivity.

That would be a tough assignment for anyone.  Had I been interviewing people for the job, I would have looked for a tough guy, a straight shooter who wore iron-clad skin.

But that wasn’t Abba’s way.

Instead, Abba chose a tender-hearted, thoughtful guy.  In fact, we know from Scripture that Jeremiah’s heart broke every time he delivered a prophecy.

I am sure that like most of us, Jeremiah longed for friends and family.  He loved people with all his heart.  Yet, his life would not include either marriage or family.  And his friends would melt away.

Indeed, God had chosen a prophet’s solitary life for Jeremiah long before Jeremiah was even born.    And when Jeremiah became a young man, probably about 20 years old, God formalized Jeremiah’s calling.

Yahweh said, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations,” (Jeremiah 1:5).

Talk about an overwhelming assignment.  Abba chose Jeremiah to prophesy to the nations.

Essentially, God said,  You will be my messenger. You are my chosen vessel, my honored instrument.  You will be a fisher of men; you will call my people back to Me. And you will warn them of the danger that awaits if they do not return.

I suppose that there are some people who love to deliver prophetic warnings. Their personalities are well-suited to it.

But for Jeremiah who longed to be loved and to love in return, such a life appeared positively dreadful. After all, no Biblical prophet ever won a popularity contest.

Thus, when God called, Jeremiah did not perform a “happy dance.”

In fact, Jeremiah looked for an escape hatch.  Given his druthers, Jeremiah preferred any life’s work to that of a prophet.

He responded quickly and predictably, “‘Alas, Lord GOD!  Behold, I do not know how to speak, Because I am a youth,” (Jeremiah 1:6).

It’s too hod…I’m just a young and inexperienced fellow. Why don’t you choose someone else?

Nice try, Jeremiah.

Unfortunately for that Jewish, twenty-something, he became prophet elect whether he wanted the position or not.

“Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ Because everywhere I sen you, you shall go.  And all that I command you, you shall speak.”

Despite his objections, Jeremiah had been officially drafted.

Jeremiah’s history reminds us that Abba loves to use those who feel unprepared and inadequate to the task.  God loves to use the weak things of this world to confound the wise, (I Corinthian 1:26-27).

Compassionate Jeremiah knew from the outset that he didn’t have either the strength or gravitas to serve as a prophet.

Yet, his so-called “weakness” would remind him to depend upon God.  And that certainly isn’t a bad thing.

After all, God uniquely blesses those who depend solely upon Him, (Matthew 5:3-12).  Without a doubt, when God wields the weak, they become strong.

Jeremiah understood that.

Jeremiah, in fact, delivered the following message to God’s rebellious children, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this that he understands and knows ME, that I am the LORD who exercises loving-kindness, justice, and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,’ declares the LORD,” (Jeremiah 9:23-14)

Grace chooses the seemingly unqualified to do the humanly impossible.

Abba obviously delights in the unexpected.

Of course, being assured of God’s supernatural call doesn’t ensure an easy walk.  Even though Jeremiah recognized his complete dependence upon Yahweh, his task still proved a difficult one…

First, because Jeremiah’s safety and Judah’s very existence hung in the balance, Abba forbid Jeremiah to marry, (Jeremiah 161-4).

Then, Jeremiah not only missed  family but he also lost friends, (Jeremiah 20:10).

Finally,  accused of being a traitor, Jeremiah was physically beaten.  No wonder he hit an all-time low (Jeremiah 11, 20 and 37).

In  Lamentations, we get a glimpse of the depths of his despair.  He wrote,” I am the man who has seen affliction…And my soul has been rejected from peace; I have forgotten happiness.  So I say ‘My strength has perished, And so has my hope from the LORD,” (Lamentations 3:1, 17-18).

He also said, “Why did I ever come forth from the womb To look on trouble and sorrow, So that my days have been spent in shame?” (Jer. 20:18)

Wow.  Chosen and faithful to God’s call, Jeremiah nevertheless was that low.

Jeremiah experienced some dark days.

Yet, despite his seeming failure to catch anything and the added burden of persecution, he preached “God’s handwriting on the wall.”

Day after day.

Even so, in the face of overwhelming odds and long-term persecution, the prophet’s spirits understandably took a nose dive. His loving heart struggled to deliver God’s warnings.

When things went from bad to worse, he felt abandoned.  Had I been in his place, I might have questioned God’s call: “Abba, if you wish for me to do your work, why has it become so impossible?”

That’s right. Jeremiah grew weary.

He fully knew what it meant to follow God and yet, to pass through dark valleys.

He wondered if his bleak journey would ever end.

I recently read a clever sign that sums up that hopeless feeling precisely, “Due to recent cutbacks, the light at the end of the tunnel has been turned off.”

Jeremiah’s lamp sputtered.   The tunnel narrowed.

Despite God’s message of love and offer of reconciliation, Jeremiah’s nation rejected God.

And that rejection broke the prophet’s compassionate heart.

“O that my head were waters, And my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people,” he cried, (Jeremiah 9:1).

It comes as no surprise, then, that Jeremiah decided that God’s gig was “too hod.”  In Jeremiah 20, he admitted that he tried to walk off the job.

In Jeremiah 20:9, he wrote, “But if I say, ‘I will not remember Him Or speak any more in His name,” Then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire shut up in my bones;  And I am weary of holding it in, And I cannot endure it.”

But quitting evidently wasn’t one of his options.   Indeed, the apostle Paul points out that for those of genuine faith, “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable,” (Romans 11:29).

In the midst of trouble, Jeremiah  did say, “It’s too hod!”

But Abba helped Jeremiah walk his burden home.  How do I know? Well, although Jeremiah threatened to quit in chapter 20 of his prophetic book, the book continues through chapter 52.

In addition,  Jeremiah 29:11 announces triumph after the despair of Jeremiah 20:9.  God promised Judah and Jeremiah, “‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and hope,” (Jeremiah 29:11).

At the midpoint, Jeremiah threatened to quit.  Abba, however, helped him persevere and the victorious promise of Jeremiah 29:11 was recorded for you and me.

Maybe, as I have,  you too have faced some black tunnels.  Midway through your faith walk, you have longed to hand Abba your letter of resignation.

Yes, the fishing rod squeals as the catch puts pressure on the line.  “I can’t do this,” the rod complains.  “I’m bending; I will surely snap.”

But the master fisherman quietly answers, “No worries. I’ve got this…I’m hanging onto you.  You’re in my grip. We’ll bring this home together.”

Just so.  Facing impossible odds, you and I wish to walk away midstream.  Without a doubt, following Abba isn’t  easy.

It’s too hod, I cry.

But Grace will not let you or me go.  Although we cannot see the end, Abba does.

And my heavenly Father gently coaxes,  “I know the plans I have for you…plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and hope.”

He promises to walk by my side.  He takes one handle bar and I take the other.

Grace carries you and me especially when we long to give up.    The apostle Paul reminds us that God “who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 1:6).

Jeremiah put it another way. He said, “But the LORD is with me like a dread champion…”

Undeniably,  Abba fights on our behalf.  He guarantees our future and  hope.

Until then, He securely holds us, (John 10:27).  We are, so to speak,  “In His Grip of Grace.”

And yup…

I just can’t resist.

You know that I simply have to say it: “Nothing is ‘too hod’ for our God.”

“This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope.  The LORD”S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; Great is Thy faithfulness,” ~Lamentations [of Jeremiah] 3:21-23,