Many people know of Jeremiah 29:11. It's one of those 'cross-stitch' verses that make it on to encouraging hallmark cards.
"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."
And that is not to make light of this verse, because it is powerful and encouraging. But there is so much more to it:
This is what the LORD says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place.
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.
Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity.
I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”
Immediately before the verse where God says I have plans for you, he tells the Jewish people "When seventy years are completed for Babylon" - in otherwords, when you have been through your trials, and struggles, and life - "I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place." We often leave 29:10 out of our cross-stitch pillows, because somehow it makes 29:11 seem less encouraging. As if now we have to endure our trials, often the trials of our own making.
And I keep forgetting that. I neglect to make God the focus of my life, even more so when I feel overwhelmed with all the problems and responsibilities I've created for myself.
I came home at the end of the day yesterday. It had been a busy, long, tiring day, and I still felt like a giant bucket of fail for not getting everything done that I needed to. What I had gotten done was important and worthwhile - I was in jail that morning with our prison ministry team, I finished reading a textbook chapter, I spent time with my family, including some important and long-missed one-on-one time with my cousin. And I left my poor mother standing at the end of the driveway, saying goodbye to me, seeing me angry, tired, and frustrated. I still had not written a paper that was due for class on Wednesday (last week). I still had not read the remaining chapters, taken a quiz, or done the homework for my other class. So even at the end of what was a great day, I was angry and disappointed, and had no one to blame but myself.
Amidst this disappointment and self-loathing, I read the above verses from Jeremiah. "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." And I realize I haven't been seeking Him first. And that's why I feel so estranged from Him lately. I've been so wrapped up in seeking to take care of myself first. I haven't been whole-hearted in my pursuit. Instead I try to schedule him in my calendar between work, school, and running, and I do so poorly.
Ryan Hall tweeted these verses from Proverbs 1 this morning:
33 But all who listen to me will live in peace,
untroubled by fear of harm.” (NLT)
The rest of it in NIV is
32 For the waywardness of the simple will kill them,
and the complacency of fools will destroy them;
33 but whoever listens to me will live in safety
and be at ease, without fear of harm.”
I so desperately want that peace. I seek to be untroubled by fear of harm. But I am wayward, and I seek to please myself, to keep myself from harm, before I seek His face.
I run recklessly into adventure, without concern for anything else except that blinding joy of movement. I did this without concern for my heart blowing up, I still run recklessly without concern for my health, without concern for my schedule or other obligations. I put this blinding joy first. I pray that as recklessly as I do this, that I would be just as reckless with putting Him first, and I would do so without regard to my safety, health, schedule, but just be all-consumed by that blinding joy of running towards His face.