Last month I was asked to speak to a group of students on the theme of resistance and resilience. Since then, I've reflected on the ways my resilience, defined as my ability to spring back into shape; my elasticity, has been strengthened through personal, professional and spiritual challenges.
I find peace in knowing, though trouble will come in my life, when I trust God and am obedient to His voice, trouble is not my demise. I am resilient, and I can endure in any situation. I will be the first to admit that, while the storm is brewing, it does not feel like I will make it. I hear the thunder roll and see the lightening flash, and my first instinct may be to HIDE and HIDE NOW! But, time and time again, the aftermath has shown me, nothing I thought would ruin me did. Or can. In fact, everything that could have ruined me made me better.
I've adapted Jeremiah 29:11 as my life verse, for the time being, as a reminder that God has a plan for me.
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."
The context of this verse is important. The Israelites were carried into exile, away from the promised land Jerusalem by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. In Chapter 28, Prophet Hananiah tells the exiles they would be free from bondage in two years. He then dies, for preaching rebellion against the Lord. Now, here comes Jeremiah, whose prophecy (word from the Lord) says the Israelites will remain in exile for seventy years. Seventy years?! I am struggling with the COVID-19 shelter-in-place safeguards, and it's only day twenty-five of working from home.
Though God's promise of a plan and hope for the future is great, there is also an instruction to the Israelites to make the most of the exile experience. Though you are not in the place I promised for you, and you probably do not want to be here:
- Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Jeremiah 29:5
- Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Jeremiah 29:6
- Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper. Jeremiah 29:7
During the pandemic and in everyday "normal" life, many things are not as I want them to be. But, I am encouraged that God continues to sit on the throne in heaven and wants what is best for me. God is not telling the Israelites to settle, but simply saying "Not yet. I am preparing the place for you and you for the place."
In the places we are, on the journey to where we are going, Lord help us listen for Your voice and find contentment and peace; all the while knowing we serve a God who has plans for our future; plans to prosper and not harm up, giving us hope for the future.