Counseling Through Jeremiah 17:5-8, Part 1

Jeremiah 17:5-8

Thus says the Lord, “Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and makes flesh his strength, and whose heart turns away from the Lord. For he will be like a bush in the desert and will not see when prosperity comes, but will live in stony wastes in the wilderness, a land of salt without inhabitant. “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is the Lord. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit.”

“Cursed” is a strong word and not one I want to describe me or anything I do. In this passage God warns us how we can avoid being cursed and teaches us how we can be blessed. He graciously counsels us away from the dangers of trusting in man.  We trust in mankind by trusting in the wisdom, successes, approval or opinions of others, or by trusting in our own personal wisdom, perspective and understanding.  According to the Lord, either way is cursed, because either of those options is turning our hearts away from the Lord.

This passage teaches that there is a connection between trusting in mankind and my heart turning away from the Lord. When I am controlled by the desire to please and impress others, I turn away from the Lord. When my overriding goal is to garner man’s praise or attention, I turn away from the Lord. When I place my confidence in man’s theories of life and happiness, or I compromise my faith to meet cultural expectations and “fit it,” I turn away from the Lord. When worldly success and popularity is more important than faithful, righteous living, I turn away from the Lord. When I allow my life experiences or my emotions to direct me in a way that opposes the promises and commands of Scripture, I turn away from the Lord. When I worship my strength, athleticism, talents or appearance or live for others to worship me in these areas, I turn away from the Lord.

In each of these scenarios, instead of living for the Lord’s glory, honor and pleasure, I am living for myself. My heart cannot both fully follow the Lord and live for myself simultaneously, which is why God says my heart turns from Him when I trust in man. I’m living for others to give me glory, to honor myself in front of those around me, or to please myself. In Isaiah 42:8, we read,

“I am the Lord, that is My name;

I will not give My glory to another,

Nor My praise to graven images.”

The Lord will not share His glory with me or you. When we seek our own glory or pleasure, we will experience the curse of our sin separating us from close fellowship with the Lord. Additionally, we’ll see the emptiness of seeking satisfaction and fulfillment in anything apart from God.  We were created to honor Him, so when we live in a way that counters our God-given design, we experience cursing, not blessing.

To picture this reality, God gives us a bush in the dessert struggling to survive in a barren, uninhabited wasteland. I envision a tumbleweed, with no roots, no stability, no possibility of bearing fruit, just dry, barren, lonely, wasted nothingness.  I want myself, and those I counsel, to avoid that cursed life.

How do you see yourself trusting in man, whether that be looking to others or leaning on your own understanding? How are you seeking glory that only belongs to the Lord? How do you need to repent of turning away from the Lord and instead seek to trust in Him alone?

Jennifer Cantu
Jennifer Cantu works as a counselor and Shift Supervisor at Vision of Hope. She received her biblical counseling certification from ACBC in 2014. In addition to working at VOH, Jennifer counsels women through Faith Church’s counseling ministry. She is very thankful for ministry opportunities to help, teach and encourage women with God's Word.