Imagine this (if you can):
You’ve just been driven from your homeland – from the country and the way of life that you know and love. There’s no way to feel but robbed and defeated.
Now you’re stuck living with “the enemy” – in captivity – for 70 years. It’s a recipe for misery. How could you go on?
This was the set-up for a verse you probably know well:
“’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.’”
(Jeremiah 29:11 – NIV)
The people of Israel had been taken from Jerusalem and were now held captive in Babylon – and would be there for 70 years. But God says good things are coming.
Really? Okay… so I guess we’ll just wait and hope and pray for 70 years to pass…
That might have been the people’s response, if God had not said something to the contrary just a few sentences prior.
And that might be our response, too, when life doesn’t turn out the way we expected.
No, if you’re reading this, you’re most likely not in captivity. You’re probably someplace relatively comfortable – at least with access to a computer or smartphone.
But even so, do you ever (or always) have a sense that life isn’t exactly what you want it to be? Whether it’s the “big” stuff like money, health and relationships, or the little stuff… like the traffic that was moving a little too slow this morning, or the Starbucks line that was a little too long.
So what do you do? Maybe you remind yourself of Jeremiah 29:11 and you think:
I guess this is God’s plan. I’ve just gotta wait and hope and pray for better days ahead.
I know that’s been my response in the past. But then one day I came to the realization that while this might seem to be an effective coping mechanism — “God is in control” — it’s actually a recipe for watching 70 years go by and then one day waking up to find “I just missed my entire life.”
And while our enemy would love that — “the thief’s purpose is to steal…”– it’s the exact opposite of God’s plan for us: “My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” (John 10:10 – NLT)
That’s why, before Jeremiah 29:11, God told the people of Israel:
“Build houses and make yourselves at home. Put in gardens and eat what grows in that country. Marry and have children. Encourage your children to marry and have children so that you’ll thrive in that country and not waste away.” (Jeremiah 29:5-6 – The Message)
Did you get that?!
God told them to live and thrive and not waste away — even while they were in captivity, facing circumstances and conditions that were far from ideal.
He’s telling you and me the same thing today.
Too often (in my opinion), the “Christian way” is to hope for a miracle when we come up against challenges. But what does that really do for us?
To quote Matthew Henry’s commentary on this passage, it just leads us to be “unsettled and consequently uneasy… always tiring [ourselves]… with the expectations of relief…” until our “disappointment at last would sink [us] into despair and make [our] condition much more miserable than otherwise it would be.”
Been there, done that. (You?)
It sounds like quite the opposite of the life that Jesus and Paul spoke of in last week’s passages, doesn’t it? Remember how they wrote about living:
- freely and lightly
- with a real affection for others
- with an exuberance about life
- with serenity
- with the ability to stick to our commitments
- without feeling the need to force your way
- with the ability to direct your energies wisely
Often, I think, we wait for a “miracle” to allow us to feel those things and to be able to live that way. The truth is, though, that we find that life when we decide to find that life. God makes it possible, but it’s up to us to choose to walk into it.
It’s a choice we can make right now, in this moment… and in every moment.
Easier said than done? Yes, and we’re going to address that in the weeks ahead. There are some very real strategies and practices that are available to us — and when we engage in them, God meets us there, and we experience that grace that is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9)… and that is a miracle.
Until next time, choose to LIVE in this moment, whatever this moment is.
Peace and blessings to you.