Best of Daily Reflections: Sucking the Muck from the Bottom of the Well

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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So the officials took Jeremiah from his cell and lowered him by ropes into an empty cistern in the prison yard. It belonged to Malkijah, a member of the royal family. There was no water in the cistern, but there was a thick layer of mud at the bottom, and Jeremiah sank down into it.

Jeremiah 38:6

After decades of faithful ministry as God’s prophet, Jeremiah’s life wasn’t turning out as he might have hoped. In Jeremiah 37, he was accused of deserting from the Jews and defecting to the Babylonians (37:13). Without a trial, the official flogged Jeremiah and threw him into prison (37:15). The conditions were so bad that Jeremiah begged the king for a reprieve, and the prophet was moved to a less dreadful prison (37:21).

But in chapter 38, Jeremiah’s journey took a turn for the worse. Some officials who had been deeply offended by Jeremiah’s message appealed to the king to have the prophet killed. The king consented, allowing the men to do as they wished with Jeremiah (38:4-5). So they took him from his cell and “lowered him by ropes into an empty cistern [a large, underground reservoir for water storage] in the prison yard . . . . There was no water in the cistern, but there was a thick layer of mud at the bottom, and Jeremiah sank down into it” (38:6).

So there sat the faithful prophet of God, up to his eyeballs in stagnant muck, believing that he had been sent there to die, without water, food, or any hope of deliverance. As far as he knew, this was the end of his life and ministry. This was about as bad as it gets.

I once heard a story about one of the leading pastors in America, a man of great stature and spiritual maturity. One day, one of his associates asked him how he was doing. “I am sucking the muck from the bottom of the well,” he replied. Indeed, that line might well have been used by Jeremiah as he languished in the cistern.

When I have hit rough spots in my life, when I have felt exhausted and discouraged, I remember the pastor and his memorable line about sucking the muck. I realize that life has moments of dark despair. I am comforted by the fact that even God’s successful servants can experience exhaustion, discouragement, and depression.

We don’t know what Jeremiah thought when he was stuck in that muddy cistern. We don’t know what he had to say to the Lord. But we do know that when he was rescued, he continued to serve God faithfully, telling the king the truth that the king did not want to hear (38:16-28). May God grant us the grace to remain faithful to him and to continue to serve him even in hard times, even, for that matter, when we’re sucking the muck from the bottom of the well.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: As you think of your life, when have you been “sucking the muck from the bottom of the well”? What happened? Did God makes his presence known to you in the muck? Did God draw you out?

PRAYER: O Lord, for the most part, serving you brings great joy. Yet there are times when, for all sorts of reasons, we end up sucking the muck from the bottom of the well. Some of your servants are literally cast into prison. Others of us find ourselves in the deep mud of criticism, exhaustion, or depression. Those are hard times, times when we can wonder if you’re still there for us or if serving you is worth the cost.

I am grateful that I am not in any cistern today. But I want to pray for those who are. Many who serve you throughout the world are sucking muck today—whether they are pastors, missionaries, business people, teachers, doctors, lawyers, mothers, fathers, children. O Lord, grant them your peace and presence.

Help me, dear Lord, to remain faithful to you in times of blessing and times of despair. When I am stuck in the muck, draw near to comfort and even to rescue me.

In the name of Jesus I pray, Amen.