That gets us to the end of what’s been going on with the kids the last few years. Believe it or not, I shortened everything quite a bit. If you’ve been reading, you can tell there have been many ups and downs along the way. What are we supposed to do during the “down” spots in our lives?
A while back, God brought some verses to my mind. They were from Jeremiah 29. At this point, you may already be reciting verse 11, but that wasn’t it. Verse 11 is the one most often quoted from this chapter, “’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.’”
The verses God reminded me of were earlier in the chapter:
4 This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 "Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper."
You may have noticed that the Israelites were in exile at this point. Later God tells them that they will be there for 70 years (verse 10). It would have been so easy for them to not embrace their current situation. They could have tried to just coast by the next 70 years as they waited on God to deliver them. You know, the “I’ll do it, but I don’t have to be happy about it” approach. But that is exactly the opposite of what He told them to do. Did you notice that? He instructed them to build houses, plant gardens, and marry. In verse 6 He directly tells them, “Increase…do not decrease.”
I hope you will stop a moment to take this in. It is so powerful. Yes, God had wonderful plans for them (verse 11), but before that came to fruition, they had to endure 70 years in exile – and not simply endure it but find a way to thrive there.
When we are faced with challenging circumstances, we have a choice to make. We can run for the hills, or we can face the situation and keep moving forward in God’s strength. Proverbs 24:16 says, “For though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity” (NIV). I believe this is the key to how we do it. This life will often knock us down. Being knocked down is not always our fault, but what we do from that point is our decision to make. Some choose to flee difficulty. Even if they don’t physically leave, they check out emotionally and just try to get by. That is not increasing!
Before the difficulties come, we have to make a decision that no matter what, we will continue to follow God and serve Him regardless of the circumstances. That no matter how many times we get knocked down, we will get up and keep moving forward. And with each new struggle we face, we again commit, “Yes, Lord, I will trust You even in this.”
Then, at the appointed time, we will suddenly be free to enjoy the wonderful plans God has for us. But first, we must learn to garden in exile.