07.29.20 | Stories | by Rev. Dr. Jim Ginther
I Know the Plans I Have for You.
The year of 567 BC was not a good one either for the people of Israel or their capital city of Jerusalem. Crops failed, cities were overthrown, and most of the Israelites had been exiled to Babylon. It was a time of incredible change as thousands of people came to terms with what it meant to be displaced from their homes and homeland, leaving behind all that was familiar, all that was comforting, all that was near and dear to them. Sound like us? We may not have had our homes taken away or been displaced to a new land, or starving, but much of what is happening now has disrupted all that is familiar for many of us. We talk in terms of getting back to normal or adjusting to a new normal. Ideas that suggest that much of what we see around us is out of the ordinary. To the Israelites in exile, Jeremiah wrote a letter, recorded in Jeremiah 29:1-14 where he provided some self-care advice to help the exiles get through what they were going through.
First, Jeremiah reminds them that there was nothing about your circumstances that God was unaware of (v. 4). We needn’t be worried in times like these that God has somehow abandoned us or that God has given upon us. God is intimately familiar with what we are going through, how it is affecting us, and even now working out his plan to restore us. Second, he encourages the Israelites to continue to live fruitful lives (5-7). They are to live life as normally as possible where they were and not wish they were somewhere else. They also should pray for that place so that it would prosper because as it prospered they would prosper. He also suggested the Israelites control what they were exposed to (ver. 8-9). This is the old computer programing principle of GIGO – garbage in, garbage out. Discerning God’s voice in the midst of it difficult times can be hard. We must learn to discern for ourselves what is true and what is not. We must listen critically, process discerningly, pray fervently for the understanding that we need to get through dark times. There are no shortcuts. Jeremiah also reminds us to remember that God holds the past, present, and future (v.10) God is absolutely aware of where we have been and is the creator of where we are going. Trusting in that can free us to be present in the here and now, enjoying and joining with God in what is happening now; knowing that God is working out all things for the good. God’s goal is to ‘prosper not to harm, to give hope and a future (v.11) Our circumstances are temporary, God’s plans are not. Finally, Jeremiah enjoins us to keep seeking God 29:12-14. Much of our trouble begins when we take our eyes off of what God is doing and try to impose our own agenda and solution on our situation. Jeremiah reminds us that by following these suggestions for self-care we can weather even the most difficult times until we return to normal or perchance, discover God’s new normal.