April started with a feeling of restlessness and a job opportunity across the country. I should specify that it wasn’t just any job opportunity, but an offer at my dream location and working on my dream project. So it’s with deep sadness that I resign from Wellspring effective… just kidding. You guys are stuck with me. In seriousness, as truly tempting as the offer was, I confidently said no. Why? Because God had prepared me with the answer before the question was asked. Without context, all I heard for a week was to “wait on God’s timing.”
Let’s be real here. I hate waiting. I was born and raised in this fine state, and even after a spell in the South, I still tend to want to keep moving near warp speed. Often, instead of waiting on God’s perfect timing, I run ahead on my own, then regret the missteps as I’m forced to retreat. God has a plan for me, but when I choose not to wait, I basically choose to walk aimlessly. Sometimes in circles. And oh boy, am I prone to wander. But here’s the issue. My impatience is a choice to act against God’s will and therefore a sin. When we want life to move on our timeframe, we are basically telling God that His timing is wrong while ours is right.
"When we want life to move on our timeframe, we are basically telling God that His timing is wrong while ours is right."
Are you in a period of waiting? Are you stuck in a rut? In a season of restlessness or a spiritual desert? I feel you. My advice goes back to the start. Go back to the point where you declared you were stepping out in faith, whatever that may have been. Maybe it was a career change, a move, ending a relationship, or even just the first time you fell in love with Jesus. Sometimes when you look at the very start of the journey, remembering why you started, it can give you the motivation to finish. Often to withstand a spiritual drought, you need to remember the heart behind that first step.
Our family’s “start” was four and a half years ago when we packed up our life in Florida and moved to New Jersey. It was one of the biggest leaps of faith I’ve ever made. We had no jobs, no house, no church. What we did have? A small baby, an overly energetic dog, and a God who already knew how the whole story played out. God spoke to us and reassured us through daily devotions, Christian friends (some of which had no idea what was going on), and prayer. One of the final confirmations that we should move came after our pastor preached on Jeremiah 29:11, “‘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.’” So I went back and watched the sermon again.
Right now, I know at least some of you are ecstatic because this is basically your favorite verse. I personally have it on a picture frame that was purchased years before I ever read the book of Jeremiah, never knowing the context. So what is the context? The Israelites had turned their hearts far from God and were hit with famine and drought and eventually invaded by a foreign country, Babylon. During the invasion, Babylon took many of the best Israelites as captives back to Babylon. Jeremiah was a prophet during this time, and this chapter is a letter from God written to the exiles in Babylon (v4).
So what else does this letter contain? God tells the people to bloom where they are planted. Build houses (v5), marry off their children (v6), and pray for the prosperity of the city (v7). While false prophets are declaring that God would save His people soon, God is instead preparing the Israelites for a long wait, 70 years to be exact. God is promising the people in exile (the you in verse 11 is plural in the Hebrew) that they are resigned to the divine waiting room, many for the rest of their lives. But He will be faithful in His promises that span generations. How would I summarize the principle of the letter? Stop wishing for better circumstances, but instead work God's will where you are.
And I needed this reminder. Because as I looked at this amazing job opportunity, I could automatically think of the great schools my kids could go to, and how we could afford a bigger house, and how we could go hiking more frequently, and how we’d be in the same town as some of our best friends, and how my husband (who works from home) would be closer to his boss, and… I started dreaming of what I saw as better circumstances and temptation crept in. But that isn’t God’s will. God’s will is here, in New Jersey. Being a local, I have an opportunity to be on mission for friends and family. Here, I am on the front line teaching kids about the love of Jesus, surrounded by the most incredible volunteers. Here, I have the privilege to lead those volunteers as well as a life group full of people who have become family. How easy is it to want to run ahead when God has told you to wait? On paper, the job offer and subsequent move make logical sense. But instead, I wait. When we move at our pace instead of God’s, it’s easy to get distracted by the glitz of a next step and completely overlook the blessings of the one you’re on.
If you are in the midst of your own period of waiting, I can relate. But please don’t be dismayed. Because our God makes audacious promises… and then He keeps them. If you need a reminder of some of the promises in the Bible, do a Google search and be blown away. He will fight for you. He will hold you up. He will set you free. He will give you eternal life. But remember, God’s faithfulness is not to make us happy, but instead His faithfulness is to fulfill His plan. We are not abandoned in our season of waiting. God is there guiding us today, just as He did when we began the journey. Although we may not feel it now, God can bring something good out of our circumstances.
One final thing as I studied this chapter. In verse 11, Jeremiah uses the Hebrew word “Shalom.” It’s one of those words that most people recognize and simply translate to peace. In the verse above, it is translated as “prosper.” As I looked into this word, a new depth and meaning took hold. The American concept of peace and the Hebrew concept of shalom are drastically different. You see, at the root of the word in Hebrew it actually denotes wholeness or completeness, and true shalom is achieved only when you are made whole with God. It’s complete. I love how Rabbi Robert Kahn of Houston, Texas, compared the two. “Peace is a temporary pact; shalom is a permanent agreement. One can make a peace treaty; shalom is the condition of peace. Peace can be negative, the absence of commotion. Shalom is positive, the presence of serenity. Peace can be partial; shalom is whole. Peace can be piecemeal; shalom is complete.” As I've been searching for peace, I realized what I instead needed was shalom. Like the Israelites, we are called to experience the shalom of the Holy Spirit right where we are today. Even if life feels disappointing or you aren’t where we expected to be, perfect, complete peace is achievable through God.
"If you’re in a season of waiting, where you feel lost or abandoned, lean into God."
If you’re in a season of waiting, where you feel lost or abandoned, lean into God. You may feel your prayers are falling on deaf ears, but His promises are still true. Seek Him and the peace that only He can bring will follow. He has you positioned precisely where you are most needed. As Christians, we know how it all ends. Our God wins.
Written by Jillian Goodhew,
Well Kids Lead at Wellspring Church