Monday, September 19, 2011

He knows the plans and they're good.

Life in the meantime isn't always awesome.

I'm not trying to bring you down, but it's true.  It's not that life is terrible or that we are plagued with meantime living.  That's far from the truth.  It's just that living in the meantime, or any other time for that matter, isn't perfect.  There will be struggles and trials.  And we press on.

Yesterday, in two different venues, I heard a famous reading from the book of Jeremiah 29.  It goes like so:

This is what the LORD says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”  (Jer. 29:10-14)

 The bold verse in the passage is one that is memorized, recited, and written on mugs and shirts.  It's a common response to "what's your favorite Bible verse?"

Now, I've heard lots of people talk about how ridiculous that is.  That people wouldn't choose this verse as a happy, hopeful word if they knew that the context was Babylonian exile.  God says to Israel through Jeremiah "I have good plans to prosper you....after 70 years of being in exile by Babylonians who will not be kind to you."  That's not an addendum we usually find when people use this Scripture.

Even so, I would be the last person to say that it isn't one we should be quoting and clinging to.  Sure, maybe people use it as a "feel good" Scripture.  I know a lot of people who cling to that specific word in the midst of difficulty, which is what it's all about.  The fact that context is so unbelievably difficult and awful, makes the promise all the more beautiful and meaningful.

Because, like I said, living in the meantime is rough.  Can you imagine the meantime feeling of the Israelites in Babylon?  Some had conformed and embraced the culture, but others just waited longingly to go back to Judah, Jerusalem, the Holy place where God resided.  In those times, too, we see in Jeremiah, that when we seek God, He will be found.  He won't be distant or make you stay in exile, but has good things ahead.d

I had a friend say to me recently how awesome it has been to see God refining me in the past 2 or 3 years.  She told me she could see me drawing near to the Lord more than ever.  All of this surprised me.  (It's good for people to let you know you've grown, by the way.  Sometimes it's hard to see that about yourself.)  She explained that she's seen me have struggles--people coming in and out of my life, hardships, transitions--but she reassured me that God is doing something with me.  My friend has seen me through lonely months, through spiritual and sin struggles, working through wounds, and through dealing with uncertain future.  She said, "I can see how much God is refining you.  It came with a cost, but He's drawn you near through those things and refining you for something."  What a gift for that perspective.  What excitement and hope I have for what is to come.

What's your exile today?  A relationship?  A job situation or transition?  A period of loneliness or bitterness?  Trust in the promise that through those things, God knows the plans He has for you and they are good.  Seek Him and find Him in that situation.  Let God use it as a refining fire for you and what your future holds.  That refining fire happens when we let Him have His way with us and draw near to Him and His Word.

Come have your way, Lord, with our meantimes, with our exiles, with our hardships.  You know the plans You have for us.  Draw us near for the journey.

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