photo of Negev desert, Israel – credit www.pv-magazine.com
This morning my heart was heavy. I am worried about friends and family who are going through some tough times. Of course I am praying for them, but some of the issues they face are chronic – there seems to be no answer in site. It’s bad stuff.
Struggling with my prayers, I turned to my Bible App to see what today’s scripture was. It opened to Jeremiah, Chapter 29:13-14. “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.”
Those words resonated, “bring you back from captivity.” When things are really pear-shaped in our lives, when it seems like we cannot see a way out, doesn’t it feel like that – like we are captives to the situation? We stumble around in the “strange land” lost in the circumstance.
It is not unlike the Israelites who had been exiled to Babylon. Their exile was the result of poor choices; worship of false gods, rebellion, idolatry…and they lost everything….their freedom, their homeland, their temple, their national sovereignty, and in some cases their friends and family too. They were strangers in a foreign land and probably could not see any good thing coming from it.
Yet in the midst of it all, God reached out and encouraged His people. He allowed the hardship, yes, but for a purpose – to fulfill prophecy, bring hard hearts back to Him and strengthen their reliance and faith in Him. Our God is a just God – and so He still offered a promise that there would be a time of reconciling, recompensing and resolve to mend what was broken. His heart clearly ached for His people, even when they had turned away from Him… “ This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”
Though I am certain not every person who was carried into captivity had sinned against God…. the actions of the nation as a whole, affected individual lives as well. God’s response was to tell them to seek Him with all their heart. Not a dip in for a Sunday visit, Jesus-is-my- homeboy attitude. But a real, hunger and longing to spend time in pursuit of Him, His Word and His character.
What happens when we truly seek God that way? It seems to me that the “noise” in our world quiets and we come to learn when all we have is Him, then that is truly all we need… Like some of those Israelites, the troubles my dear ones are facing are not necessarily their faults, but that is not to say that the result isn’t the same. They, me, you – we all in various times of our own lives will feel trapped with no way out….and it is at this time, when we are at our lowest – that as He promised “I will be found by you.”
I don’t know when or how my Lord is going to bring back my loved ones from their “captivity”, but this I do know. As He promised the Israelites, as He promises all HIS loved ones, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” And our job, when we are in the midst of it, is to relentlessly seek Him, pray for patience…and wait on His promises.
Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD. Psalm 27:14
The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him. Lamentations 3:25
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:30-31