Ever feel like God did just not get the memo you sent him about all the plans you have made for your life? I sure do. I work so hard to construct this perfect schedule and timeline, but God does not even follow it! Not even close sometimes! So frustrating! I thought planning was one of my spiritual gifts!?
“For I know the plans I have for you, declare the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11, ESV
Chances are you know this verse from Jeremiah by heart. Outstanding, so do I, but how often do we truly apply it to our own lives? It is so very easy to read the first half of the verse and move on, half-heartedly believing God and going right back to our planners. We read it.. a verse a day to keep the devil away.. now back to our busy days!
Let’s look at the passage with fresh eyes and open hearts this time, with consideration to the background of the passage. These words of the LORD were spoken to the prophet Jeremiah during a tumultuous time in Judah’s history. The 600s BC were marked as a time of rampant idolatry and spiritual bankruptcy, until the nation is defeated by King Nebuchadnezzar. Jeremiah sends these words of hope to the Jewish exiles in Babylon.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declare the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declare the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.” – Jeremiah 29:11-14, ESV
A HOT MESS! So the people of Israel had turned from God and been worshipping idols and following whatever superstitious cultic practices had been deemed by the throne. They never stopped being God’s people, just stopped behaving like God’s people. Then King Neb saw an easy target and captured Jerusalem. An even hotter mess! Slight change in plans, Israel, you are now moving to Babylon! Can you imagine?
Isn’t that always when we suddenly remember God and call out to Him desperately? We forget to talk to God until disaster strikes. Don’t you know they were calling out to God from Babylon? God hears, and God responds through Jeremiah. Hear His instructions:
“Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters … multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” – Jeremiah 29:5-7, ESV
What?! Why not a quick rescue or a swarm of locusts to let the people go? Jeremiah tells them that they will be there for 70 years! Not 70 days, 70 years! Help! My planner is only 18 months! God, can we discuss this please? I can only imagine their anguish and anger.
God tells them to be content in the here and now, with instructions to settle down and plant a garden. Start a family and meet your neighbors. None of those are overnight tasks. Their instructions require obedience and patience and trust in God. In addition to seeking God and being content with their semi-permanent detour, God also instructs them to seek the welfare of their new cities and to pray for them. Talk about praying for your enemies!
Can you relate to the Jewish exiles in Babylon? Perhaps you are frustrated in your current situation that is nothing like what you had planned? A layover turned into a never-ending rerouting, with no desired destination in sight.
We can plan all we like, but we must remember that God is in charge. Try as we may, things will not always go according to plan and our destinations will not always be of our choosing. Just like the Jewish exiles, God calls us to find contentment in our here and now, no matter how messy or undesirable it may be.
We are to make the most of our circumstances and pray for our cities, our detours in life, with grateful hearts, even when we do not want to. God changes hearts and surroundings, and He is faithful! GOD DOES NOT MAKE MISTAKES! He can and will use any situation, any mess we get ourselves into, for His ultimate good. He will deliver us out safely on the other side with blessings greater than we can imagine!