Thriving in Difficulty

In those dark moments when life seems to be falling apart, I ask you to consider that it might actually be falling into place.

When God begins to upend our lives, removing both people and things that we are comfortable and familiar with, it can feel a lot like punishment. It is possible, however, that He is actually redirecting our path. And even if there is some punishment involved due to disobedience on our part, let us remember that our Father chastises those He loves (Hebrews 12:6).

In Jeremiah 29 we read about how the Israelites were carried off into exile by King Nebuchadnezzar as a result of their disobedience. Not too long after, many false prophets rose up, including one by the name of Hananiah. He boldly proclaimed that their enslavement would be short-lived and that they could expect to return home in as little as two years.

Jeremiah, a true prophet of God, called out this lie, and then delivered the true promise of the Lord:

“‘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.’”(Jeremiah 29:11-12)

God did, indeed, have a good plan for the Israelites, and it was a plan that would give them hope and a prospering future. The only problem was, as stated in verse 10, it would be seventy years before they returned home.

So what were they supposed to do until then?

Jeremiah gave the people this directive from God: “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… Also, seek the peace and the prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Jeremiah 29:5-7)

This is not at all what the Israelites wanted to hear! They wanted to be told that they were going to go home. That their suffering would soon end. Instead, God’s plan was for them to stay right where they were, and to help prosper the nation that enslaved them!

It is important to note that the individuals that were carried off to Babylon weren’t ordinary citizens. These individuals were “…the court officials and the leaders of Judah and Jerusalem, the skilled workers and the artisans”(Jeremiah 29:2). When put into context, what God was telling them was not to become idle just because they were in bondage. Their condition was not to be used as an excuse to not utilize their gifts.

In addition to this, they were also instructed to seek peace. Not make a scene or cause an uproar but to seek peace. Doing otherwise would have only made things more difficult for them and, considering the fact that they had the liberty to build homes and plant crops, things really weren’t as bad they appeared to be.

Likewise, we have to make peace with our situations, no matter where we find ourselves. We may not like it but we must accept, digest and make peace with it. Only then can we benefit from all that it has come to teach us. Only then can we truly prosper within and without. Only then can we thrive.

Just because God knows the plans He has for us and He has determined our expected end, that doesn’t mean that we are going to get from point A to point B without enduring everything in between before reaching that expected end. God can allow us to prosper and grow and mature right where we are. God can make us better right where we are. He can make us wiser right where we are. But if we fight against the growth and development that He is trying to bring about through our circumstances, we will come out the same as – if not worse than – we were when we went into it. Let us not resist what God is trying to do in our lives but instead, let’s choose to trust the process and enjoy the journey.

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