A commonly quoted passage from the Bible is Jeremiah 29:11 which reads (in part) "For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." We often read this to be encouraged. We tell ourselves God is working things out for me behind the scenes and I'll get that prosperity soon.
But we must be careful to read the whole chapter. It is true that God is working behind the scenes for our good, but we have a tendency to believe our idea of what's good and God's idea are the same thing. We also often fail to agree about timing.
As I reread the chapter today in hopes of encouraging myself, I had to guard against the rest of the chapter doing the opposite. As I read, I remembered that this was God's message to those who had been displaced, not where they wanted to be. God tells them, quit looking for me to rescue you right now but rather live in the city where you are, grow food, marry, have children, grow in number and live in peace among your captors.
Well, that certainly changes the message.
God even gives His timeline in this chapter. He states that Babylon will remain in power for 70 years. Whoa...probably not what most were hoping out of the "I have plans to prosper you" passage. Many believed it would only be a year or two before God set them free. It becomes clear the way we like to read this verse and the true meaning behind it are not exactly the same.
It's more about being patient and waiting for God's timing, allowing Him to set up to optimal circumstances and influencing human hearts that block the way. It's about not getting what I want when I want it.
But then I recall the times I have to encourage my toddlers to be patient to get what they really want. Perhaps it's only 70 seconds for them rather than 70 years, but the concept is the same. I remind the boys they will enjoy the milk more if I can have the time to pour it into the cup rather than instantly on the tray -- the timing they'd prefer.
I have to recall the times I speak to my 17-year-old about growing up and what's she's ready to take on -- and what she's not. For her it might be 70 days to raise the money for something or perhaps 70 weeks to graduate. But I can see the better path to prosperity for her that she has difficulty understanding.
So too is it for me. When I have disappointments of not getting what I want in the timing I expect, then I cry out to God and declare I am not a child; I know what's good for me! And my childlike tantrum is thrown.
When I pick myself up off the floor, usually metaphorically but not always, I realize that to God am I a child who cannot see what He does. Like my guidance to be patient I advice my children, He says the same to me. I must trust that He has a plan to prosper me, to prosper my family, to prosper my heritage. His thoughts are bigger than my thoughts and His vision further.
What I must do, is the same I ask of my own children -- be patient and live peacefully where I am at for now.
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