“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.”
What an incredible promise. A promise from our Father, that he has plans for us. That he doesn’t just stand back and watch and whatever we make of our lives then so be it, no, he actually has a plan, a purpose for each of us. He has created each one of us for a purpose and he wants to prosper us and give us hope.
I can be a little dramatic sometimes, a dreamer, a sap, a mushpot…whatever you can call it at the time. Sometimes I get in these moods where I’m frustrated where I’m at. I want more. I want to trade in my job where I go through the motions and the only purpose to go each day is to make money, for a job where I make a difference, where I can impact people’s lives, provide inspiration and hope to others. And I feel hopeless and impatient and desperately want to see the road ahead leading me to this place but I just, don’t see it. I get worried that I will live a life of no influence. When I get like this God usually comes along and finds a way to remind me to have faith. Some reminders are very subtle and if I am not looking for the message, I’ll miss it. Others smack me right in the face. Each time my Father knows exactly what I need to find hope again.
God knows the significance Jeremiah 29:11 has for me, he is the one that chose this passage as the first verse that would truly touch my heart. In October of 2005 as I sat on a bench in the chapel at Remuda Ranch, out in the desert outside the town of Wickenburg, AZ, having arrived a week earlier for treatment for an eating disorder, I looked up at a picture sitting on the wall and for the first time read what it said. This verse was written across it with a picture of an eagle or dove or something I don’t remember, for that part didn’t matter. Reading that verse for the first time broke something in me. Broke something in a good way. Like the first stone crumbling away from a dam. A dam strong and unforgiving, not letting any little thing pass through. That stone crumbled away and light had been waiting for the opportunity, an opening to shine through.
It was a foreign concept to me then, that God could possible have a plan, a purpose for my life. That he could possibly want to give me hope for the future. I was 18 years old at this time and couldn’t imagine making it to my 21st birthday. I never dared to imagine that God, the creator of the earth, sun, stars and sky, ever planned anything personally for my little old life. And now, whenever I feel a loss of direction, or a bit of frustration or monotony in my day to day, my Father usually finds a way to bring me back to Jeremiah 29:11. And he has a way of making it feel like that verse was written just for me.
As silly as it seems, my little frustration with my jobs and what I’m doing versus what the dream may be… As insignificant as my little feelings are in the grand scheme of things, in the grand scheme of the world- war, poverty, natural disasters and tragedy… somehow God still cares about the smallest discouragement in my heart. It’s amazing. A couple days ago this frustration visited me. It started late morning. I didn’t want to be at work. I don’t want to be working two jobs. I was frustrated and felt like I was wasting my time. These thoughts infected my mood into the early evening, where God planted Jeremiah 29:11 in the heart of a nice couple who came out to eat and who I was fortunate enough to serve that day. At the end of a busy rush, my mind scrambled, fresh with chaos, this table had left and I went to pick up the check off the empty table and right on top was a business card for a Christian bookstore with a note on the back. My name, saying, “you did great!” and “thank you” and “Jer 29:11” with the man and woman’s names at the bottom.
I could feel a wetness in my eyes as I stood there and froze for a few seconds. Here it is again. A reminder. I spent my day being ungrateful, wallowing in disappointment and self pity, instead of counting my blessings and being grateful for the immense grace and goodness God has provided me, and yet he still gave me that gift. He used that couple, Tom and Cherie, to give me that gift. Those words. That promise. Those people have no idea how much that meant to me, or maybe they were in on it more than I think.
Nevertheless, it’s the verse that always comes back. He had a plan then, in the little room in the middle of the Arizona desert, and he has one now. I may be more interested in microwaving, but God is into marinating. And the promise is that he is still marinating me today. He has brought me this far, all he asks is to have a little faith that he will continue the process. He promises that when he begins a good work in us he will see it out to the day of completion. All we have to do is put our life in his hands and trust.
I don’t believe God puts dreams in our hearts if we don’t have the tools to carry them out. I don’t think he ever wants to leave us stagnant. I think he loves us too much to ever leave us the way we are. But maybe sometimes we have to marinate for a while, we have to strengthen our muscles and do things we don’t always want to do. Grow in spiritual strength and mental and emotional strength, in discipline. Learn the lessons presented to us along the way.
When Chris Tomlin sings, “where you go, I’ll go, where you stay, I’ll stay, when you move, I’ll move, I will follow…” there isn’t a clause in fine print at the bottom specifying that we will go and stay and move when we feel like God is moving fast enough or only when we can see the point or the bigger picture. Sometimes it’s easy to forget all this. Sometimes I forget. But thankfully, when I do, God is always there to remind me… that he is with me. He hasn’t gone anywhere. There are two sets of footprints in the sand.