The reading from Jeremiah today both comforts us and reminds us of a painful truth. It tells of God’s promise to restore and heal the people after they have experienced the dreadful consequences of self-centeredness. We need the comfort of knowing that joy and praise are indeed possible after heartache. But the painful truth is that we often cannot understand what brings true joy until after we have suffered and learned. God says through Jeremiah that we shall “fear and tremble” because we understand what is good and we prosper. The lessons of experience are as valuable as pearls, but are often so painful to obtain.
As Paul tells the Philippians, we must “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” God’s work in us is a process. We have much learning to do, and we must never cease to do it. Even so, as we learn, we can rejoice in many things – including the knowledge that whatever shape we are in, we have the hope that we are being re-shaped and re-formed to be more like Christ.