Jeremiah 29:11 -For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Most Christians have heard or read this scripture. I know it’s a favorite amongst the people I know.
It is a scripture often shared in the midst of confusion, disappointment and times of waiting on the Lord. In it, the prophet Jeremiah writes to the people in captivity these encouraging words that God has them on His mind. He is thinking good thoughts towards them, thoughts of peace; with a future and a hope in mind for them.
What I find interesting is that this letter was probably read by Daniel, Hannaniah, Mishael, and Azariah. Jeremiah basically tells them to live a full life while in captivity because they will be there for seventy years. They are told to build houses, get married, have children, and to let their children do the same. So in the midst of their captivity in Babylon they are told that they may as well get comfortable because they are not going anywhere, anytime soon. And yet, God has a plan to bring them good and not evil, to take them somewhere!
Isn’t it interesting in life how we can find ourselves in an uncomfortable place or situation and we can’t settle down because we just want out. Daniel and the three Hebrew boys, (as they known) were in captivity, not of their own making, but captive nonetheless. And from reading the book of Daniel, we can see they had a profound commitment to the Lord. But they were in captivity where it seemed that their dreams had come to an end. Then they hear these words from the prophet Jeremiah! “Use this time wisely! Build yourselves a family! Buy a home and get a career because I have a plan for you to bring you to the place that I have always had in mind for you!” (My own paraphrasing, of course!)
I have been teaching for about 13 years now and when I began this job, I prayed and asked God’s permission before moving in this direction. While it has not all been bad, I have never truly gotten settled in the job, thereby, hindering myself and limiting myself in what I am experiencing in my “career”. My heart wants to be free to do ministry work, but my financial situation dictates that I have a job. There are times when I literally feel as if I am in bondage.
And yet, even if it is true, God says, “flourish!” God tells me that He has a future and a hope for me. I like the KJV that ends this verse with: “to give you an expected end”. That is my focus. The expected end. I am not where I want to be, doing what I want to do, but I know God has somewhere He is taking me.
Visions, dreams, words of encouragement all have me in this amazing place of ministry, touching the lives of God’s people like Maria Woolworth-Etter, Kathryn Kulhman, and Smith Wigglesworth did in the early 1900s. But my reality has me in the classroom redirecting disrespectful kids, creating lesson plans that rarely work like I envision, and jumping through hoops in a system that is designed to squeeze every ounce of our creativity and individuality out of us and the students that they can get. It’s challenging to see God’s plan!
And yet, because He is my God, my Lord, and my Savior, I choose to continue to trust Him. To believe that in spite of what I see, hear, and experience on a daily basis in the workplace, He has an expected end for me. And so my assignment is to flourish in my environment and demonstrate the love and power of God to those in it.
So on the flip side of the aggravating parts of my job are some real positives. I have touched the lives of many children in a positive way! Just this year alone, I reached out to a student who previously was tortured by the enemy in her mind, causing her to pass out when she was filled with anxiety. During report card pick up, her father expressed his appreciating, even mentioning that these attacks had ceased as a result of my relationship with her. Praise God! I remember a student who wouldn’t talk in public because of her intense fear of her life situation, but after a few weeks in my class, she began talking, interacting with other students and eventually shared what was happening in her life so that we were able to get her some help!
As a working woman I can identify with the vast majority of the world when I preach, understanding the challenges and frustrations of living out the principles of Christianity in the workforce. I have real life examples that are constantly happening before me and with me to keep a spice in my teachings and sermons and help me to connect with the audience. I have learned how to adjust to different audiences as I have to teach different students, different grades, and different contents on a regular basis. And mostly, I have first hand knowledge of the real world experiences that are plaguing our society, keeping ever before me that people truly need the Lord!
So! Am I thrilled with where I am at in life? Not really! But I have made a decision to flourish where I am at while I wait for God to bring me to my expected end! And as long as that is my heart, the “captivity” will be a place of “great exploits” and not a place of “deep disappointments!” Wonderful Jesus!