Sunday, May 4, 2014

Plans

There are several things that have become increasingly important to me over the past two years. One of those is reading my Bible - every day. Last year, I challenged myself to read the entire Bible in a year, using the One Year Bible plan. When I first started, I enjoyed my time in the Word, but as time passed, reading the daily scripture passages became more about checking off something from my to-do list than anything else.

After I finished the plan in January, I was unsure how to keep myself reading the Bible. I didn't want to read a verse here and there, I wanted to read through it again, but on my own time frame. Mostly so that I could take more time with each passage or book and not feel like it was a part of my have to instead of my want to.

That's when I decided to take some cues from my husband and re-read through each book, but in an order of my choosing - or, more accurately, at God's prompting - and at a more relaxed and comfortable pace. Since I began, I have found a new joy in scripture, in all parts of the Bible.

I recently finished the book of Jeremiah. While there are many things that God revealed to me while reading this book, there is one that I want to focus on today. 

Jeremiah 29:11. It is a verse that gets quoted often. In fact, I have quoted it myself. Specifically in times of hardship or struggle or in periods of life when I feel restless to make changes or fear the start something new. However, while reading through the book of Jeremiah last month, I gained a new understanding of this verse and the story that surrounds it.

The story of the prophet Jeremiah started approximately 670 years after Israelites escaped slavery in Egypt. It was at this time that God exiled his people from the very land that he had promised them. However, in spite of being removed by force into unfamiliar territory, God urged his people to get comfortable and work in peace in the land of their exile. Why?

Because, this was not a short-term thing. They would be there for 70 years. It was only after that time that the Lord would be returning them to their home, the Promised Land. He said to them...

"Build homes and plan to stay. Plant gardens and eat the food they produce. Marry and have children...And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you to exile. Pray to The Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare." 
- Jeremiah 29:5-7

The Lord planned to prosper the people of Israel and Judah, but they had to wait. Not only wait, but become content and find peace in their current circumstance.

The other piece of the puzzle comes in verses 12 and 13...

"In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you," says the Lord.

God does not just plan good things for us, he plans for us to be in relationship with him. We can speak and he will listen. When we search, we will find him. God is not a conductor without an orchestra or a manager without a staff. We have a part in this too.

One evening, a few weeks ago, Matt and I had a conversation over dinner. I told him I felt like a failure because I didn't know what to do next. He just looked at me, with complete confusion and asked, "Do you really think you're not doing anything?" Then, he proceeded to list all the things I am doing currently.

He also brought up the idea of being still, of waiting on God to reveal the next step of his plan. He said, "Now that you've said you're open to anything, wait for God to bring you opportunities. Then, say 'yes.'" 

You see, for me, it is often the fear of not doing enough or enough of the right thing that causes me to feel restless. During these periods, it's as if movement equals purpose and that the absence of movement equals uncertainty and doubt. But, that is not what God says. He urges us to be still in the knowledge of who He is - eternal, holy, love, healer and provider – and to find peace in the present.

As with the Israelites, often God gives us time to fight our battles, sit in our suffering, accept our anxiety and...become peaceful in it all. Then, he asks us to move with him.

So, let's wait on the Lord with comfort and confidence, and the assurance that he has great plans for our futures. Then, we can be ready to say 'yes' whenever he asks.


4 comments:

Cat said...

You know that is one of my all time favorite verses, right?! Thank you so much for sharing as every time I read it and am recharged! And I totally agree with the reading the Bible on your own terms vs feeling like it is something you do as part of a checklist. Thanks for sharing a great post of encouragement as always.
Oh and I like the new design too. Looks nice :)

Caroline said...

This is a good word Sybil. I am inspired by your heart for the Lord and desire to be in His word! xoxo

Katie said...

i love that verse and should read jeremiah again. being still is so hard for me. waiting for what God has for me. thanks for the wise words, as always :)

Delightfully Awkward Brittany said...

Oh gosh, I so needed to read this<3 Bless you for sharing! My goal is also to read through the Bible, but I am hesitant to give myself a time frame because I don't want to get into that check-list mentality. Congrats on making it through!