" 'For I know the plans that I have for you' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity.'" Jeremiah 29:11
Sounds like the best news on the newsstand, doesn't it? It really is, but it was given to the Israelites at a very low point in their history. And it was given after it was made clear they were about to experience even more really hard times.
You see, Jeremiah 29:11 wasn't given as a blanket statement available to soothe us out of bad times. No, instead it is given to build us into the hope we will need through the hard times. We use it in our minds as a free get out of jail pass.
If we look into the context of this verse we find it is given to Jeremiah after the false prophet Hananiah leads the people into a lie. A low point in the Israelites journey.
In Jeremiah 27 The LORD had specifically told the people not to trust anyone who told them that they didn't have to be servants under Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon. Not only were they to be servants under the King of Babylon's yoke.
Then in Chapter 28 the false prophet Hananiah comes and tells them they don't have to submit to Nebuchadnezzar any longer. Jeremiah counters back to Hananiah and says that a true prophet will be validated only when that which he has prophesied comes to pass.
I encourage you to read Jeremiah 27-29. It is an eye-opening revelation. And the end result of Hananiah the false prophet brought about his own death.
Afterwards, they were instructed by Jeremiah (a true prophet) to live under Nebuchadnezzar's yoke about seventy years. But even in this apparent low point in their story, they were encouraged to build houses, take land and grow gardens, take wives and have children. Basically, learn how to be content in this hard time. And when the LORD has determined your people will be brought out of exile it will happen. But be aware, it will not be quickly and it might not necessarily be that particular generation that is brought out of exile.
My friend Mary DeMuth author and blogger said it like this in her blog:
"God's heart in Jeremiah 29:11 is not that we escape our lot, but that we learn to thrive in it." I encourage you to check out her blog on this topic by clicking here.
A low point in my journey.
Me, a mother of three, June 22, 1990 divorce papers finalized.
That day I was in a room with real estate agents and my husband. He was buying a house. My husband's phone rang. He jumped up out of his seat and shouted with glee. "Whoop! Yes! Thank you for calling me with that information. Yes, we can move forward now."
It was his lawyer calling from the courthouse. Our divorce papers had just been signed by the judge. At the same time I was signing a paper releasing any rights to the ownership of the house that my now ex-husband was buying.
It would be our rental home (my children's and mine) for four years. I must say, there was an awkward silence that fell over the room after my ex-husband's news. I continued signing the papers, you do understand this, I was signing the papers releasing my rights... dark day.
A bit of backstory:
My husband separated from us about three months after the move and sale of our house in Cincinnati and move to Dallas suburb in the beginning of the year of 1988. We had remained separated until 1990. Then he filed for divorce. Immediately the following Saturday my children and I climbed into our van.
After a day of searching for apartments in the up and coming small suburb of Dallas and finding only one apartment complex with a year-long waiting list, I drove into the driveway of the disturbingly dark rental house we lived in.
We had moved into the rental after my husband announced his desire to divorce. We'd lived in this dark and disturbing house for almost two years. I had requested my husband to wait until I could get a University degree before he filed for divorce. He had agreed and that had lasted awhile. I was not finished with school yet. I had gotten grants and loans and was doing my best living on a child support income and a small paycheck for a part-time job at a day-care.
Things were more than bleak. I pulled into the driveway in a Soccer-Mom-Van that didn't fit my lifestyle any longer.
My kids had become as used to our separation as is possible, but not a divorce.
I had to tell them I didn't know that we would be able to live in the same town because my income would not allow me to afford renting a house in the area. With no apartments available for another year, it wasn't really going to be possible. So we would need to move closer into Dallas, or Denton. My oldest son asked, "What about school, and church? Will I have to make new friends?"
I was left with the only response available to me.
"I'm so sorry, honey. Yes."
I asked all three of my kids to go into the house, I would come in shortly. They filed out of the van and entered the house as if they were marching in a funeral processional.
I fell apart behind the wheel of that vehicle. Stuck in a place I had no control over I was filled with anger and frustration. I could not even comprehend what my children were going through. Living in an intact family my entire growing up life, I honestly did not know what to do. I cried out to God whom had gotten me thus far. After several minutes, He calmed me and I joined my kids.
Unbeknownst to me, my oldest son went directly into the house and called his dad. He asked his dad, (paraphrased from both he and his siblings because I wasn't there):
"OK, so just because you don't want to live with us any more doesn't mean we should have to change our school, our church and our friends. So, when are you going to buy a house here for us to live in?" my twelve-year-old son.
My son, a boy who was way too old for his age; and a boy who felt much more the protector than he should have ever needed to feel.
But it was what it was. And the day after that call, my soon to be ex-husband set about finding a house within walking distance of my children's elementary school. This was the house on the day our divorce was finalized he signed papers for. This was the house we rented from him.
I finished University in that house and got a teaching position in the same district that my children went to school.
I moved into the house in June and by the time the fall schedule for University had come out I was settled in. The first day my kids and I walked to their school from that house I received a card in the mail. It was from my mother. She had mailed it because I had been on her mind. I still have the card.
In the card she wrote:
My Dearest #4, Robyn,
I know that you are in a really hard place right now. But God is providing for you. I opened my Bible this morning and read this verse. I believe that God wants me to give this verse to you as a word of encouragement. I am praying for you . I love you. God does too. He knows what he is doing. Trust him. It is all within His timing and in His way.
This verse was scrawled in her hand:
" '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. And you will seek me and find me, when you search for me with all your heart. And I will be found by you,' declares the LORD, 'and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,' declares the LORD, 'and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.' " Jeremiah 29:11-14
Four years later I had graduated and gotten a teaching position.
I left the house and bought a house on my own, closer to all of our schools. We were then within walking distance of the Elementary school that I taught in, the Middle School where my youngest was attending, and the High School my two oldest were attending.
The days were better, but they weren't easy. We never celebrated a Christmas in that house that held anything but a sense of Heavenly Joy and Earthly pain. We rejoiced in Christ's birth, but were forced to deal with the hardness of a broken family and it was not an easy road. We lived a life of moment by moment miracles. We grew in our faith. We grew in our love for the LORD. We grew in the tough times and the hardships. We grew in His Grace.
I lived in that house until my children were all out on their own. They were grown and flying well with God. They were amazing in their faith and their trust in the God Most High. They knew He was their Father and that they were His children. They knew from first hand experience that He was the one that brought food to the table, put roofs on the house, gave us siding, rebuilt our fence... oh, the list goes on!
And I too leaned into this God that was with me every step of every day. He brought me through the fire of being a single mother. He fought for me and He blessed us in the beauty of family meetings to iron our arguments out, joyous concerts and football games, broken bones, operations, and graduations.
I put that house on the market in 2005, after God called me onto the foreign mission field. I left the United States, sold my house, prayed with and hugged my children, and flew off to arrive in Germany on January 15, 2006.
Never could I have imagined a life so full and filled with adventure. And yet, here I am at the beginning of my 60's and looking forward to more.
And now I look back on the last 40 years and realize He has restored my fortunes. He has gathered me from all the nations and from all the places where He has driven me.
You might now better understand why this verse means so very much to me. My mom just turned 89 years old. We talked about the card she wrote to me at that very bleak time in my journey. She smiled through the phone and confirmed that God had truly impressed on her how much I needed to hear that particular verse.
I am blessed to have a mom who listens to God. When she said goodbye she reminded me to hug my husband. Yes, God has blessed me in the last three years with a partner in Him. I have a blessed husband to share life with. The earthly love of my life.
He has brought me back to the place from where he sent me into exile. Because my exile began before I met my ex-husband....
And that is a story for another day.
I hope you have enjoyed this tiny story of healing and redemption. This story riddled with sadness and hope, thwarted dreams and surprising blessings, is a true story from this woman that loves God more than life itself.
And trust me, God has allowed me to thrive in life! It has been and continues to be a Wild and Wonderful Adventure.
This blog has been quite autobiographical in nature. I usually don't share as much of my own life here on these pages. I hope it helps you see beyond your circumstances.
I encourage you to hold onto this Jeremiah 29:11-14 passage remembering that your hope is built on Him instead of ease in the moment. You too might come through in 10, 25, or even 40 years, like myself, finding that the exile has given you a relationship with God which is beyond imagination.
I promised you two weeks ago I would walk through the eight thankful verses by:
Come back next Monday to find out what brings me to gratitude about Genesis 21:1,2 and scroll down if you missed last week's blog on 1 Chronicles 16:34. A little history into the Ark of the Covenant.
As I said last week, "I will share more on these eight verses I am grateful for next week. But, I hope to encourage you to delve into the word on your own too. Because in reality, His Word is what is more important than anything else. " :-)
Because He is the Great I AM, i am,
robyn rochelle cox
Robyn & Biff
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Robyn Rochelle Cox
WHOSE AM I?