God is good and has good plans for us, even if we feel we are stuck in a disaster of our own making. What He says in Jer. 29:11 NLT is not just a cliché, it’s a solid truth. “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
God said this and we say we believe it, but do we really? Do we really think God has good plans for us? Because right now everywhere we look there seems to be disaster.
When God told the children of Israel this, they were in captivity in Babylon. In the verse before this, He tells them to build homes and plan to stay. Plant gardens and eat the food they produce. Marry and have children. Find spouses for the children so that they would have many grandchildren.
Build Up, Don’t Tear Down
He encouraged them to work for the peace and prosperity of the city where they were living. He was letting them know the welfare of the city where they were would determine their welfare.
This is so true for us today. We need to understand that the welfare of our city, state and nation determines our welfare. As God’s children, we should be building up instead of tearing down.
Then, God promised them after 70 years He would come for them, bring them home again and do all that He had promised. It’s at this point He tells them He has good plans for them. He was giving them the bad news first and then the good news.
He knew exactly what they were thinking. Why has God done this to us? Why isn’t He taking care of us? It surely doesn’t feel like we are God’s chosen people. This is not fun. I want to go back home. I want to go back to what I know. Sound familiar? It’s pretty much what most of us are feeling these days.
Prayer Changes Things
God doesn’t leave them hanging wondering what to do next, though. He tells them to pray and He will listen. He adds, “If you look for Me wholeheartedly, you will find Me. I will be found by you, I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land,” (Jer. 29:12-14).
“Israel will return to a life of peace and quiet, and no one will terrorize them. For I am with you and will save you,” (Jer. 30:10-11). He is giving them insight into how His good plan is going to work.
I Was A Disaster
There have been so many times in my life when I was headed towards disaster and God rescued me. One of the biggest times was when I gained up to 430 pounds. At that point in my life, I wasn’t just headed for disaster, I was a disaster.
I enabled myself to gain an enormous amount of weight which put me beyond the highest category on the Body Mass Index (BMI) scale. Overweight is those whose BMI is 25-29.9; obese 30-39.9; morbidly obese, over 40; super morbidly obese over 50. My BMI was 71.5.
It felt like I had awakened in a very bad, no good, horrible, disastrous nightmare of my own making. To top it off, I had no future and I had no hope. I was in captivity to my own appetite. It felt like I was in a prison, but I knew it was a prison I had created.
It was a stronghold, like 2 Cor. 10:3-5 talks about. Strongholds are mental mindsets, lies we buy into. The word stronghold can actually be translated as a prison, a strong place where someone is held captive and they cannot get out.
What happens, though, when you have put yourself in captivity? How does this work then? Where is the good in this? First of all, strongholds are not what God wants for us. He came to give us freedom to follow Him. He will lead us to freedom if we want it.
He gave the children of Israel three steps to get out captivity and made three promises of what He would do when they completed those three steps. These are outlined in Jer. 29:11-14. Did you catch them?
Three steps to freedom:
- Seek God wholeheartedly.
- Find God.
Three promises from God:
- He will end your imprisonment.
- He will restore you.
- He will bring you home.
God’s Good Plan
God wants good and not disaster. He wants a future and a hope for us. That’s His plan. However, we need to do our part.
First step for us is always to pray. Talk to our Maker. This is not just a short prayer in the morning and a quick thanks for the food. This is continual prayer, prayer without ceasing where we talk to God like He is our best friend. We tell Him everything and we listen when He responds.
We seek Him wholeheartedly. This looks different for everyone. For some it’s on your face in His presence. Or it’s joyous praise dancing. Or it’s fervent prayer for extended times. Or it’s intercessory prayer on your own in your prayer place and for others it’s staying in constant touch with God throughout their day. For some it’s all of the above.
What does God mean when He says,” If you look for Me wholeheartedly you will find Me and I will be found by you?” We pray and seek God wholeheartedly in order to find Him. Wholehearted means with sincerity and commitment.
Or as the Message puts it, “When you call on Me, when you come and pray to Me, I’ll listen. When you come looking for Me, you’ll find Me. Yes, when you get serious about finding Me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.”
If we want to get out of captivity, especially if we are in a prison of our own making, we need to be diligently seeking God. He’s the only one who can help us. Many times, though, God may be the last one we want to find us because we are ashamed of what we have done to ourselves.
We have put ourselves in a prison of our own making and think we have to set ourselves free before we face God. Stop and think for a minute, though. If you put yourselves in prison, you can’t get free without help. God is the first one we should be looking for. Instead we try to figure out how to set ourselves free.
The personal prison I put myself in was eating foods made with sugar in order to placate my negative emotions. I had allowed the thought that I couldn’t survive without these kinds of foods to become a stronghold in my life. It was a lie felt exactly like a solid truth. The only One who could show me the way out was the very one I was avoiding.
I didn’t want to find God because I knew He had already told me my freedom would be found in giving up those foods. I wasn’t praying about this. I wasn’t seeking God wholeheartedly. I knew if I sought Him, I’d find Him. And when I found Him, He’d tell me the same thing.
Where Is Home?
God said to the children of Israel, “I’ll turn things around for you … I’ll bring you home to the place from which I sent you off into exile. You can count on it,” (Jer. 29:14 MSG).
Where is home for us? It’s the place you were at before you stepped into your personal prison. For me it was in the security of following God with all my heart. I longed to return there, but I felt I couldn’t because I had strayed so far away.
What God was asking me to do was follow Him wholeheartedly. I was following Him in a halfhearted, flippant kind of way where I would follow one day and be off somewhere else the next. That won’t work. He wants all of me. The part of me which was eating myself into oblivion because I thought it was making me feel better had to stop, turn around and get back on board with what God wanted for me.
When I put all my eggs in God’s basket, He will bring me home. Until I am off on my own doing my own thing following after my own desires, He will not and cannot bring me home. It takes a willful decision on my part to submit completely to Him.
When I finally saw what I’d done to myself and how far I’d strayed from what He wanted for me, I prayed. I sought Him with tears of repentance and I found Him. Why? Because He wanted to be found by me.
It can feel like God’s hiding from us when we aren’t following Him, but the opposite is true. We’ve walked away from Him. He’s there waiting for us to surrender whatever we’ve put between us and Him. For me it was foods made with processed sugar and flour.
For others it can be fried foods, fast foods, processed foods, chips, snack foods, binging, overeating or all of the above. It also could be anger, shame, rejection, people pleasing, over achieving, over working, overspending, gambling, alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, pornography or any number of things.
Whatever it is, it is keeping you from your future and has dashed your hopes. You feel like you are living in disaster and you long to taste of the good plans God has for you. God hasn’t torn up His plans for you. He is the author and finisher of your story. He’s got a plot twist just waiting for you.
He had one waiting for me and I’m so glad He did. My life changed dramatically when I got on board with His good plans for me. I lost the equivalent of two people or 250 pounds, but that’s not the biggest change. I got rid of tons of emotional baggage and came running home to God. I found Him again. You can too.
Sweet Grace for Your journey podcast, episode 42, has more on this subject. Go HERE.