March 25, 2021
Surviving Our Seasons of Suffering
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Longsuffering isn't a word I want as part of my story. It means having or showing patience despite troubles. And I don't particularly want troubles to begin with, let alone for any extended period of time.
Thankfully, today's passage of Scripture offers us encouragement for when we're not sure we can endure our season of suffering for one more second.
In Jeremiah 29, the children of Israel got news from the prophet Jeremiah that they were going to be held in captivity by Babylon for 70 years. Think about how long 70 years is. If we had to go to prison today for 70 years, for most of us that would mean we'd probably die in captivity. Seventy years feels impossibly long, incredibly unfair and horribly hard. It would seem like a lifetime of hardship without a lifeline of hope.
But here's what God told the people of Israel: "... When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place" (Jeremiah 29:10, ESV).
This is the scene and the setting where we then get these familiar and glorious promises I love to cling to:
"For I know the plans I have for you, declares 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 ..." (Jeremiah 29:11-14, ESV).
God is assuring His people that His thoughts and intentions toward them are fixed and established. His plans are for their "welfare," not for harm. His sure and steady promise is one of restoration.
But He also reminds them of what they must do as they await the fulfillment of His promise. They need to call on Him. They need to intentionally and wholeheartedly seek Him.
When we seek God, we see God. We don't see His physical form, but we see Him at work and can start to see more of what He sees. Trust grows. If our hearts are willing to trust Him, He will entrust to us more of His perspective.
If we want to see Him in our circumstances and see His perspective, we must seek Him, His ways and His Word. That's where we find His good plans and promises for hope and a future.
If we find ourselves in an incredibly disappointing place - a place we don't want to be - it's easy to start feeling that some of God's good plans don't apply to us. We can even lapse into the mentality that we somehow slipped through the cracks of God's good plans.
But the truth is, God is closer than we often realize. He sees things we don't see, and He knows things we don't know. He has a perspective from where He is that allows Him to see all things - the past, the present and the future - from the day we were conceived to the day we will breathe our last breath, and even beyond that into eternity. He declares He is our Rescuer. He is the One who will sustain us. And He is more than able to bring His plans to pass. (Isaiah 46:3-11)
All these things were true for the Israelites. And they're true for us.
For the Israelites, the news that they would be in captivity for 70 years was absolute reality. But the truth that God had a good plan and a purpose, not to harm them but to give them a future and a hope - that promise was very much in process all while they were in captivity.
Don't rush past that last sentence too quickly. God's promises for you are in process as well. Right now. Even in circumstances where you can't see any evidence of good yet. Just remember, "not yet" doesn't mean "not ever."
Let's cry out to Him in the midst of our suffering. Let's earnestly seek Him and ask Him to help us look at our circumstances through the lens of certainty in who He is even when we are uncertain about how things will work out. We are not forgotten. And our longsuffering won't seem nearly as long or nearly as painful when we know God's perspective is to use every single second of our suffering for good.
Father God, thank You for reminding me I can trust You in the waiting. Thank You for being present even in these moments. I know You will carry me through, and I trust You in the process. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Isaiah 46:4, "Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you." (NIV)
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REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Have you been looking at life through the lens of disappointment or the lens of God's love? How can you let the truth of God's goodness shift your perspective this week? Join in the conversation!
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