This phenomenal article (pretty much everything that comes out of Relevant magazine is phenomenal) really hit me between the eyes today. Like many, if not most, believers, I have been guilty of "misusing" this verse and even practicing one of those things that I hate the most: taking God's Word out of context. Indeed, I have to admit, I've never concentrated on the passages surrounding Jeremiah 29 or given much thought to the context into which these words were spoken. Today, however, was different.
Nearly ten years ago, when Jeff and I were wading (slogging) through very deep waters in the first of what I thought would be THE most horrific experience of our lives--betrayal at the hands of christian brothers and sisters who spoke love to us but acted in most unloving and unchristlike ways, which was then followed just six years later by an equally horrific and eerily similar experience (mamas don't let your babies grow up to be pastors)--I was the good baptist girl turned jaded pastor's wife who printed this verse out in a swirling serif font and plastered it between the spelling tests and dental appointment cards that adorned the front of our Frigidaire.
I distinctly remember standing in my kitchen in Grand Rapids listening to a beautiful rendition of Great is Thy Faithfulness on the radio. As I turned to put something in the fridge, the verse caught my eye and I sat right down on the linoleum, Sawyer crawling and drooling around me, and sobbed my heart out. I was quite certain God had no plan for us. He had completely forgotten we existed. How could the heartache and pain we were feeling be part of this so-called hopeful future screaming at me daily from the refrigerator door?
Looking back, I can see that God's hand was working all through that time but I certainly wasn't seeing it then. And, six years later, when we were facing a similar situation, I remember asking God "So THIS was your plan to 'prosper' us? In case you haven't noticed, we are staring down the barrel of the same loaded gun here and it sure ain't 'prosperous'. I didn't want to leave Grand Rapids in the first place. Why did you bring us to Maryland just to put us through all this again? I would have gladly skipped this. Thankyouverymuch."
But I was still a good baptist girl albeit an even-more-jaded pastor's wife and, doggone it, I printed that darn verse out again and plastered it up on the new fridge almost daring God to come through in some miraculous way. That was three years ago, and I would be totally lying if I didn't say that I am still waiting for that miracle. Yes, God has provided and we are fine. Don't get me wrong. I have absolutely no desire to go back three years, and I could make a long list of lessons learned and relationships gained through this painful experience. But life is certainly not what I had anticipated or hoped for. I can think of about a million things I would change about our life, and many (most) days, I certainly don't feel prosperous or hopeful. My pessimistic self is precariously suspended in the familiar state of "waiting for the other shoe to drop" because that's just how life seems to work for us. God is probably tired of hearing me pray "Why?", and contentment is a battle that I lose on a daily (hourly) basis.
And, as you might suspect, Jeremiah 29:11 is no longer hanging on our fridge. Which is probably a good thing, considering how "twisted out of shape" my view of God has become. I think I need to print out this article and give it a place of honor on the fridge instead.