The prophet Jeremiah was clearly depressed, an emotional state that appears to be an occupational hazard for the classical Hebrew prophets. He bemoans:
“I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity is. So I say, “My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the Lord.” I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.” (Lamentations 3:17-20) NIV.
So, what should he do? There is no therapist, nor anti-depressant medication to aid Jeremiah through his despair—no doubt advantages to living in our therapeutically savvy age. Ministering to Judah in the 6th century BC and just before the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians, one might wonder why the “weeping prophet” didn’t take the advice of Solomon several centuries earlier and allow himself some “wine for those who are in agony” (Proverbs 31: 6).
Too often in contemporary Christian settings, such a litany of ravaging despair would be met with a chastising “joy in Jesus” dismissal.
Jeremiah then writes, “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope.” He is retrieving from his mental bank of stored insights, based upon his training and experience, an over-arching assertion that truthfully and therapeutically informs his despondency. The mental act of retrieval as well as the theological truth he retrieves, allows him to re-experience the necessary ingredient for any journey requiring endurance—the gift of hope.
For hope, operationally defined, is like a giant bird swooping down to Jeremiah’s valley of despair, grabbing him with its giant claws and flying the prophet to a heightened perch so that he can see the “Promised Land” beyond his present circumstances. It is why reestablishing hope is essential for anyone tempted to give up on a difficult but redemptive, and therefore necessary, journey. The gift of hope always clarifies the “whys” of our path. The gift of hope secures the fuel necessary for perseverance.
What Jeremiah calls to mind is very familiar to most Christians, especially since it provides the chorus in the glorious hymn of the faith, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.”
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3: 22, 23) NIV.
Like Jeremiah, we are naturally in the habit of calling something to mind, and it is not just when depressed. When tempted by sinful habits or distractions, we will inevitably call something “to mind.” Of course, it will be radically different depending upon whether we are yielding to the temptation or not.
For instance, to yield to the temptation, what the mind explains through the instrument of conscience is that “no one will be hurt,” or “I’m only human,” or even something like, “I deserve it and she doesn’t!” Generally, what is called to mind during sinful choices is some form of self-justification.
On the other hand, in resisting temptation—and one reason it is called temptation is because it is tempting—we also call something “to mind.” Consider Jesus’ being tempted by Satan in the wilderness (Luke 4: 1-13). Our Lord is coaxed to turn stones into bread and he “calls to mind” the corrective that humans don’t live “by bread alone” (Deuteronomy 8:3). Jesus was mentally drawing on overarching certainties—much like Jeremiah—that contextualized the temptation, reminding himself (and us) of victorious truths and his Father’s ultimate provision.
This is part of the context of Paul’s reference to the “living hope” in Romans 8: 21-24. Israel’s “hope” when wandering in the wilderness was to cross the Jordon River and fully live in the “Promised Land.” Jeremiah’s “hope” when in depression was to mentally reassert the over-arching truth of God’s faithfulness. The disciple of Jesus Christ, despite the difficulties of disappointment, despair, and pain of suffering in any form is to experience hope most assuredly in the ultimate resurrection of our bodies made possible by the resurrection of Him who defeated death.
It is this hope that we must regularly, faithfully “call to mind.”
Paul D. Patton, Ph.D., is a professor of communication and theater at Spring Arbor University in Michigan. He has graduate degrees in Guidance and Counseling, Religious Education, and Script and Screenwriting, and a doctorate in Communication with an emphasis in theater arts. He has been married to his wife Beth for over forty years and has three daughters (all actresses)—Jessica, Emily, and Grace, three sons-in-law, David, Joe, and Eric, and four grandsons, Caleb Rock, Logan Justice, Micah Blaze, and Miles Dean.