When I met my wife, one of our first “me too!” moments we had was discovering a mutual appreciation for Jeremiah 29:11. The verse stood for the universal sense of uncertainty that surrounds your early 20’s (and, I’m being honest, even well into your late 30’s). Around 2012, I experienced significant loss in my life and began to question whether I even believed the verse in the first place.
It wasn’t until early 2014 as I was preparing for a sermon where I finally understood what God was saying here.
A letter to the exiles
For sake of time, I won’t recap everything that led up to Israel being exiled to Babylon. For a very long season, I felt like Israel: rejected by God, wondering if He heard me, and not understanding that the predicament I was in was a result of my own actions. I was looking for a resolution to my prayers in a “Jeremiah way.”
Israel, too, was looking for God to restore them. A false prophet, Hananiah, came along with what I’m sure seemed like an answer to their prayers: within 2 years, the loss Israel suffered would be restored. However, Jeremiah labeled Hananiah’s false prophecy “rebellion” and it actually cost Hananiah his life.
Jeremiah 29 is God’s answer to the confusion that arose over Hananiah. Jumping back to 2014, when I stood up to preach my sermon that morning, I started it out this way:
“I want you to repeat after me: I have hope in Christ Jesus.”
The congregation said it, and I had them say it again. Then, I had them say it yet a third time with gusto. What followed was my best attempt to unpack Jeremiah 29:1-14.
In it for the long haul
Here’s something I don’t recall telling anyone else, except for my wife: I was uncomfortable preaching this sermon. Maybe that’s why it was so well received, I don’t know. I just remember telling the congregation something to the effect of “You might be in this for 7 weeks, 7 months, or 7 years” in reference to the trial that church was facing.
Deep down, I was praying God wasn’t telling me the same thing.
Israel was so focused on the past that they were missing out on their future. I think it’s safe to say when most of us suffer loss, we become nostalgic. We want what was taken to come back. For me, it was a way of life. For Israel, it was to go home. What is it for you?
Instead, God told Israel to set up camp. Get comfortable where you’re living. Build homes, plant gardens, and have families — you’re going to be in Babylon for 70 years! But then, God gave the promise:
In other words, yes God had a plan for Israel — but it wasn’t the plan they were expecting. How true is that in our lives? We think we can see so clearly but our lenses are really fogged up. We have nostalgia for a Ranger when God wants to give us an F150. But we have to trust Him that He has the proper timing for that F150.
Restoration and Loss
Can the things we lose, whether through our own actions or God’s discipline, be restored? Naturally, the answer is yes — but I think it’s safe to say it won’t always look the same. All month long we’ll be looking at how we can be #restored, and I encourage you to use that hashtag this month. But first, an exercise.
I want you to go grab a piece of paper. It’s okay, I’ll be here waiting. I’m serious, put down your phone or walk away from your computer. Go find a piece of scrap paper and a pen or pencil. I’m not going anywhere.
Hey, welcome back! With that pen you (hopefully) retrieved, I want you to write down what the loss you’re nostalgic for is. Was it a job, a relationship, or maybe a possession? Whatever it was, write it down.
Now fold it in half and pray over it. Ask God to help you release the loss to him. Pray that He gives you the patience to understand his timing. You might be where you’re at for 7 weeks, 7 months, 7 years, or 7 decades — but know that His plan for your restoration is better than anything you or I can imagine.
Now, don’t open the paper back up: that’s what Lot’s wife did. Instead, crumple it up and throw it away. This is an exercise I’ve done with my Bible study group several times, and I’ve found it to be an effective way of moving forward. Hopefully, it helped you too!
If you ever need prayer from one of us, don’t hesitate to send us an email. And remember: trust God that your loss will be restored in His way!
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This is an interesting, albeit painful post for me to read. However, I am writing to you in hopes that maybe you could give me some insight on my particular situation…
In 2013, I began my journey with God, but it wasn’t a smooth sailing at all. For two years, I was in a church that taught false doctrine and was very spiritually abusive, leaving me with even more of a warped perception of God than I came into church with. Before that, I didn’t grow up in a Christian home and my childhood was rife with dysfunction, violence and abuse at the hands of my father, who made life a living hell for all of us. During those two years, God called me beyond a shadow of a doubt into what His plan was for me and started the process of putting things into place for me to step into it almost immediately, much like Israel’s journey into Canaan. I left that horrible church in April of 2015 and joined the one I go to now and was baptized that August. God did an amazing work in my life on that day, breaking off what I believe was demonic oppression from being in my old church and for the first time in my life, things were perfect and He blessed me with everything I could have wanted…but I was a fool…
Having grown up the way that I did and then going straight into the church that I was in left me with a deficit of knowledge of what grace was and I didn’t know it at the time, but I believed that all of the things God gave me were things that I had earned through all of my suffering and that I wasn’t good enough to have them…as a result, I ended up making some really stupid choices thinking that I was doing what God wanted me to and I ended passing up everything that He gave me and to this day feel that I missed His will for my life…I’m angry not only at myself, but angry at God for letting those doors close because it was never my intention to do what I did…I was simply doing what seemed to be scriptural (the old church I was in taught me that debt was sinful and I stayed at a job I was working during those two years long after I should have because I believed that God was commanding me to pay for college all in cash) and even though it was a belief that I should have left behind with all of the false teachings of my old church, people in my new church, which is a very godly place to be, told me the same things about debt that my old church did and because of this, I believed that God was speaking to me through them about this…I really didn’t want to do what I thought I had to, but I forced myself to do I because I believed I was practicing self-denial and keeping myself from falling victim to being deceived again the way I had been in my old church…yet still knowing that I didn’t do what I did because I wanted to be disobedient and knowing that I didn’t understand grace because of what had gone on earlier in my life, I don’t see how God was justified in slamming those doors shut after what I did and ripping everything away from me and I feel as Job felt, that God wronged me when He did all of that…if God looks at the intentions of our hearts and He saw that I was only trying to be obedient and scriptural and not fall for being deceived again, why did He punish me by doing what He did in response to what I did? And it also brings another question: would God ever be willing to restore to me the things that got taken away knowing that I didn’t do what I did because I wanted to sin the first time? Or is this out of the question because I was already a Christian when I did these things? Was what I did just too bad?
Lily, I am so sorry to hear you’ve had such a rough and unBiblical experience with the church. I encourage you to remember that humans are not God and, because of that, do not always act according to his will. God’s heart is to see you living in the fullness of his glory and grace. We often live with a mentality that he is keeping score, but Scripture tells us that he forgives and forgets. I encourage you not to view these hard things you’ve experienced as God’s punishment, but rather the fall out of humans acting within human wisdom, rather than supernatural wisdom and grace.
Restoration and healing is more than possible for you if you seek him in all of who he is – Lover, Father, and Healer. While I don’t know why he allowed these things to happen in your life, I encourage you to not to throw them back at him as though he was intentionally putting you through hard things for the sake of punishing you. God does not allow us to walk through anything without having a plan for our good and he doesn’t leave us in the midst of a battle to fight it alone. Press in and ask him to show you his mercy. Ask him to give you a taste of the love he has for you and to reveal his heart toward you in this place.
We would be happy to pray with you and encourage you as you are working through this. Give us a call: 419-339-3000.
I am in need of prayer. It is not easy for me to ask this because I do the best I can, I work hard, and I’m extremely devoted to GOD. My family raised me to live a simple life and we did not go to church or talk about GOD. I became a soul on fire for GOD when I was given a brochure at a party event years after I had a near death experience in the hospital giving birth to my youngest child who is now 21 yrs old. After what I witnessed with the NDE I believe GOD was reaching out to me. I believe he was choosing me to follow him. My life started to spiral down when I separated from my husband. It’s hard to understand if or what I’m doing wrong. My husband began to show signs of manic depression bipolar and he was abusive. I wanted to get my children out and separate from him. It was hard because I did not earn enough. I’m continuously failing. I keep losing jobs losing everything. I’m a mother of four children. God blessed me! My youngest is 21. She was born mentally disabled. When she began school she did not talk. She was delayed in walking and learning. As she got older she was rejected in school by other kids. I stayed close by her side to help her. I lost my other children none of them speak to me today. I feel disowned by them. I understood they are hurt because of there fathers abusiveness. One of my daughters talks to her father today but not to me. I pray about all of this. My older children were all born healthy and have jobs and it seems they are doing well for themselves. They moved out and now have there own homes. I’m a single mom and my diasabled daughter youngest lives with me. We both love GOD with all of heart. We use to attend Catholic church but now we attend a Messianic Synogogue. I have no religion. I only seek to follow GOD and believe Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior. I can not talk to my older children about GOD at all. They have made that clear to me. if I bring up anything about our experience at church they get very mad. I need someone to pray for my family. I keep losing my place to live. I am about to lose everything again. We will be homless again. I’m not sure if it is a sign that I need to go back and live with my husband. We have been separated since 2013 and I don’t want to go back but I know it is biblical when you marry and make a vow to your husband . I don’t want to hurt my disabled daughter. She cries and tells me she does not want to return back to her dad. Thank you for reading. Please pray for my family and that I receive understanding from GOD about what to do. I feel that it is me and that I am doing something terribly wrong because my life before I separated was not like it is today. Thank you soooooooooo much! Please call 727-768-5884 in case I lose this posting.
I am praying for your sister Mindy, He will lift u up from the mess up. He will lead you through green pastures. Let the peace that surpasses every understanding rule your mind and heart right now: In Jesus name Amen.
Not sure what to pray but pray for me
We are praying for you, Dorothy!
I have barely had a job for almost five years. I’m in my mid fifties and I don’t have seven decades to wait. If God takes much longer to help me, by then it won’t matter. He takes care of us, but I’ve had enough waiting. Please pray for me, thank you.
Hi Rob, we are praying for you! Please give us a call so we can pray for you in person: 419-339-3000
Please pray for me too,it’s such a long story but God knows the details…
We are keeping you in prayer!
Please pray for me. I lost everything from job to evrything I had.now am sinking in debts. It’s five years since all this started and I have a family it’s really hard.
We are praying for you!
Please pray for me am extremely finished, stagnant, lost, homeless….
only God knows my stories
We are praying!