For twenty-five years, I have served in public schools all across South Carolina. One thing that I have always believed is that every child should be challenged and taught to reach new heights through perseverance. Psychologists agree and, in fact, explain that in order to learn, children must be pushed beyond their current knowledge or skills; however, at the same time, they should be supported as they undertake new things. The term for this area of growth potential is called the “zone of proximal development”–the distance between what a child can master on his own at a given time and what he can achieve with guidance from an adult or capable peer (Vygotsky, 1978).
In today’s reading of Jeremiah 32:36-41, I see God, the ultimate teacher, using this very tactic. He is telling Jeremiah that the way to the lessons they must glean is “By the sword, famine and plague.” God is telling His people that they are not immune from His “furious anger and great wrath”; however, the Teacher will not abandon the students in their hardship and suffering. Rather, He proclaims that He will be faithful in an “everlasting covenant” relationship. He would have them learn and grow through striving, but guarantees that He “will bring them back to this place and let them live in safety,” where “They will be my people, and I will be their God.” He promises, “I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me.” Their education through their difficulties will result in faith that will cause them to “never turn away from me.”
Are you in a difficult place today? Are you walking through this season of Lent wondering how this God who claims to love you so could leave you in this mess? Are you crying out, telling Him that you cannot do this on your own? That this test is too hard?
Take heart, my friend. Hear the promise He still proclaims to us when we echo the psalmist, “my spirit grows faint within me; my heart within me is dismayed” (Psalm 43: 4): “I will never stop doing good to them…I will assuredly plant them in this land with all my heart and soul.”
God is a good, good teacher. He knows your ability level. He loves you and, though He may have you in your zone of proximal development, He is beside you, leading you to lessons that will save you, sanctify you, and grow you into His pleasing, ultimate will for you. His lessons will ensure all people “that all will then go well for them and for their children after them.” Trust in your Teacher.
Rev. Libby Newman – Lead Pastor – Batesburg Church of the Nazarene – Batesburg, SC