“For I know the plans I have for you,” says 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.” (Jeremiah 29:11-13).
I and my family left Atlanta in March of 1997 after thirteen years of Christian growth in a suburb of that city. It was an opportunity for meeting what had become a very personal goal, as well as a good move for Northern Telecom. We left what had become our ‘adult’ home (13 of our 16 married years had been lived there) for what was essentially an unknown in terms of residence, schools and a new church home.
We left our ‘home’ using the above Scripture (Jeremiah 29:11) as a revealed promise of God. What we did not know was how exhaustively difficult that it would be to hold on to that promise as the transition unfolded. We knew that God was in this move, but Satan used a variety of circumstances to divert our attention to more of what we had lost rather than how God was going to use what we gaining. God, on the other hand was also using a variety of circumstances to maintain an ongoing indication that He was IN this, regardless of distractions to the contrary.
It even bordered on the ‘false responsibility’ issues that God has used ITG to communicate to us and how unnecessarily burdensome those can become. Suffice it to say that God maintained our connection to Himself even during the darkest moments when the spiritual pain seemed to be the greatest.
During the summer of this year, we were apparently more spiritually ready. Through a Bible Study, the Spirit revealed accordingly that there was even more to this scripture than we had been able to see previously. God is like that, you know – His timing and our revelation – it is not as if the rest of the chapter 29 was not there before. We were not however, until this moment, ready in His Spirit to have the scales removed from our eyes. Our focus was extended to verses 4-14. He tells us that our ordeal will be long and difficult, but effectively to build houses and live in them and make a contribution to the new community until such time as He will again change the circumstances. We knew this all along in one sense, but there had been just too many human emotions wrapped up in the experience.
He reconfirmed that His purpose is for Restoration and Hope, not for calamity and devastation as it had humanly felt for so long. He took it a step further, however, and connected this concept back to another scriptural reference with which he had comforted us in earlier intervals of the transition. Genesis 37:18-24 was a passage from which a sermon by our former pastor had been related. The sermon emphasized verse 24 which indicates that the pit into which Joseph was thrown “had no water in it”. It was a cistern, and the only purpose of a cistern was to collect and store water. This one was dry, and the only reason for this state was that God had divinely prepared it to be that way knowing that Joseph would be thrown into it.
You see. God knew what a difficult transition to the new city that this would be for us. But He also assures us that He has gone to a divine effort to prepare the way before us, and then to be there with us through out the ordeal. He has continuously opened opportunities for ministry as we have gone along on this Spiritual journey, and continues to reveal His presence. What more can a Child of a living and Holy God desire?!
May this serve as a further encouragement to the readership of ITG. No one else can know the pain and devastating feelings that we go through in so many circumstances that permeate our lives. I am convinced, however, that we never go through these fires but for our own spiritual refinement. More importantly, however, we go through these experiences that other human beings can see Jesus in us – even when and especially when the pain seems the greatest and the hour the darkest.