Julius Caesar was at his prime; he had just won a civil war and had been made the perpetual dictator of Rome. He was, however, caught off guard as a group of senators made a pretense of petitioning him, only to hem him in. Then, one of the men flashed the blade of his dagger and plunged it into the Caesar. The others followed suit stabbing the dictator twenty-three times. Brutus, who was a close family friend, delivered one of the blows. Shakespeare wrote that Julius cried, “Is that you, Brutus?” What betrayal must he have felt? How common betrayal is for all of us. George Washington had his Benedict Arnold, and so do we.
Who hasn’t seen someone give up when things didn’t go well? We have all heard the well-rehearsed reasons why someone won’t go to church anymore. We are familiar with the causes of why someone gave up on his or her marriage. How admirable it is when you meet someone who after many years and many battles remains faithful. They were hurt and betrayed just like everyone else but never gave up. They faced hopelessness, confusion, and even despair but didn’t throw in the towel. Instead, they stayed at the task.
Betrayal is so hard to take because it diminishes us so. It may be the strongest and most painful human emotion. The prophet Jeremiah knew betrayal of the worst kind when he learned that his friends and even relatives were planning his assassination (Jer 11:18-19). Jeremiah struggled to recover from his hurt, and he complained to God. His questions were similar to ours: How can you let evil people prosper? How is it that you allow them to have it so good? Why are crooks allowed to rip people off and get away with it? Why would you let hypocrites get by with wrong? You know what they are like (Jer 12:1-2).
God listened and answered Jeremiah, but the answer is not what Jeremiah expected. We, like Jeremiah, want God to reveal to us what we cannot understand. We feel that if we knew the why of things we would be so much stronger. God hardly ever does that, instead, he reveals himself to us, which is what we need more than anything else. He tells Jeremiah, “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?” (Jer 12:5).
God was saying to the prophet, “If you can’t handle this, Jeremiah, how do you expect me to entrust you the great things I have planned for you?” For Jeremiah to remain faithful to God in tough times, he would have to turn to God and trust him completely. Learning this is what helped Jeremiah to remain faithful through his long and difficult ministry. It will be no different for us today. When we are discouraged in our marriages, our churches, or our ministries, we must turn to the Lord. Isaiah saw the weariness in people, and he asked them this question: “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:28-31). When God strengthens us in our weariness, we feel purpose and significance. Viktor Frankl said, “Despair is suffering without meaning.” Let us turn to the One who is the creator of the ends of the earth and trust him, and he will make us faithful.