For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, “plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from the nations an from all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from where I send you into exile.
I know. We all see that first verse and take great comfort, don’t we? It’s used every time something happens that we just didn’t see coming. Something that knocks the wind right out of us. This is the promise everyone offers up to support the “God’s got a plan” platitude.
I have a very bad (or great maybe) habit of finding these common verses and trying to figure out (as Paul Harvey would say) the rest of the story. The message of Jeremiah was intended for a people who found themselves captives of another world power. They had been exiled from their own homes and sent to a strange land with strange people and strange customs. But here’s the thing. They were warned! It wasn’t an out of the clear blue sky thunderbolt! God had sent prophet after prophet to warn them. He had (like a parent) laid out the consequences at the very beginning. Obey me and the land will be yours and you will live in peace. Follow other gods, adopt other religions, and deny me, and I will abandon you and let your enemy have you.
So why “Unintended?” As I always do in the wee hours of the morning, I got up this morning and made my coffee, showered while it was brewing and then grabbed my favorite mug, a spoon, and a saucer. The mug obviously was for the coffee. The spoon was
for the cream and the sugar. The saucer? It was a spoon rest so I wouldn’t get a sticky mess on the counter with the spoon. When the manufacturer created the saucer, he did not design it as a spoon rest. He designed it to hold a (unacceptably small) coffee cup. I know what it is for; I just choose not to use it that way.
God did not abandon His people in exile. He didn’t even want them to be there in the first place. But they had made their choice. So He used it for a new purpose.
This post was actually drafted 2 years ago – August 29, 2014 to be precise.
I haven’t seen it since until a few days ago. It took my breath away because this very verse was what Momma asked Casey (her pastor) to share at her funeral. Well, this and the salvation message with an invitation. She made him promise actually.
God knew the plan for her. God knew that her physical work on the planet was done but that Momma wouldn’t let it go without a “last stand.” And what is more future oriented and hopeful than the salvation message?!
I won’t even pretend to understand death or why it swept into our family and washed our feet out from under us. But I know the unfolding plan brings us hope in our salvation, encouragement in the stories we hear about Momma’s legacy, motivation for our future to live out God’s will for us.
Maybe, like my saucer, it’s time to think about being used in a new way. Having just retired in June, Daddy and Momma had a TON of plans. Plans to travel, visit with the grandkids, help grow their church ministries, mission trips, and home improvements just to name a small handful of the myriad they had lined up for retirement. Now Daddy is faced with doing all these same things – just in a new way. I am faced with doing my life in a new way.
If we have done nothing else over the last month, we have certainly sought God’s face with all our hearts. And we have found Him. He is restoring us slowly. He is gathering us to Him from our exile of grief.
And in that we have a future and a hope. It is just not as we intended.