I’m starting to disguise my blog post titles because I know you’re all thinking, “Wilderness schmilderness” right about now, with all my posts about thrashing my way through this period of uncertainty and the unknown. But I’m a big advocate of the, “Write what you know, write where you are,” philosophy, so I’m going to keep writing about the wilderness until…well, until I’m out of the wilderness.
Honestly, I wasn’t going to post at all today because I didn’t think I had anything to say. Since I’m all Relaxed Blogger Woman now, I was feeling okay about the no-post Friday.
But. As I was doing some research for a soon-to-be-mentioned project (f.y.i. not a book deal…cue depressing music) yesterday, I came across some Bible greatness I simply had to share.
I’d just Googled “Bible verse about God and plans.”
[By the way, this is how I roll with Bible study. I don't use a fancy concordance, and I don't know my Bible nearly well enough to pull verses out of my elbow. So I type in phrases like, "the thing Jesus said to the blind man," and "what was the bird that the Israelites ate in the wilderness?" and up pop a bunch of links that are usually spot-on. Google is my concordance, and it works out rather well.]
Anyway, I vaguely remembered a verse from Jeremiah about plans, and I found the one I was looking for, but what I didn’t expect was the gold mine of wilderness-related treasure that precedes that verse [there's a lesson here, I think: Always. Read. The. Context].
Turns out, Jeremiah wrote a letter to the Israelites, who were spending seventy years (insert quick prayer here: Lord, please don’t give me a 70-year wilderness) as exiles in Babylon. And this is what God told his exiled people, via Jeremiah:
“Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you in exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Jeremiah 29:5-7)
Now, there are two ways you can interpret these verses. There’s the Negative Nelly approach, which goes like this: For the love of the land and the sea and the sky above, I’m going to be in the wilderness for so long God’s telling me to settle down and find wives for my sons so I can have grandkids here? Lord have mercy, no!
Or, there’s the Glass Half Full approach: Well, clearly I’m going to be in the wilderness a while, so I might as well quit whining and at least build me some houses and plant me some gardens and do something useful with my time while I’m waiting for God to do his new thing.
Friends, I’m going out on a limb here. I’m going with the Glass Half Full approach on this one.
You can pick yourself up off the floor now.
Seriously though, I’m trusting that God won’t have me in this place of uncertainty for seventy years. But for however long he has me here, I’m going to be productive and accomplish what’s within my control. I’m going to build some houses and plant some gardens and eat the leafy, luscious, organic produce that’s available right here, right now, smack in the middle of the wilderness.
Because this is what I am learning: the wilderness can be a wildly productive place…if we let it.
Here’s the hard truth: We will all, every last one of us, face unpleasant, challenging, distressing, downright depressing situations in our lives. No one gets through this life unscathed. No one walks through heaven’s gates without having stared suffering in the face and without the scars and bruises to show for it. No one escapes the wilderness.
But life cannot grind to a halt during times of disappointment and duress. We cannot up and quit. We must press on. We must build our houses, plant our gardens and eat what they produce. Because here’s the other lovely truth that goes hand-in-hand with the hard truth:
The garden will produce, even in the midst of the wilderness.
God will provide, even in the midst of the wilderness.
God made a gracious promise to his people exiled in Babylon, and it’s the same promise he makes to you and me, wherever we may be exiled today:
“I will come for you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place,” God said. “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:10-11)
God will come for you and me.
He will not leave us or forsake us, ever.
He will prosper us, not harm us.
He will give us a hope and a future.
God provides in the wilderness, when we can’t see for the trees and the brush and the darkness. God provides when we step out of the wilderness, into the wide-open space of a hope and a future.