“‘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.'” These words come from the Biblical prophet Jeremiah, and they were the words God gave to him to speak to the Israelites when they were in exile. These words have become very familiar to me as they have come up in my own reading, my son’s devotional, and the blog of another writer. Further, the concept of “plans” has been at the front of my mind, as our church has been going through the book of Proverbs and talking about seeking God’s wisdom for our life’s plans, and on the home front, we are examining our past and future plans regarding my husband’s career.
Perhaps the most earnest and honest discussion I had about the verse in Jeremiah was with our 7-year old son during his bedtime devotional reading. After he had read the verse, I asked him how it made him feel to know that God has plans for his life, even before he knows them. He said he felt both good and bad. This piqued my interest, so I asked him why “bad”. He replied, “What if I don’t like the plans God has for me?” I love good conversations with our boy; the wheels turn in his mind and totally catch us off guard sometimes!
A blurred montage of my life’s decisions, directions, and plans sped through my mind as I thought of how to answer. Bear in mind that all conversations with him in the evening are in the presence of his toddler sister, who is usually climbing onto something or asking me for or about something just to stay in the forefront of my attention. This time was no different, so I wasn’t able to give him as thorough an answer as his question deserved. I remember asking him to look back on his 7-year old life and tell me whether God had led him to good things so far. When he said that God indeed had done so, I asked him why he thought the future would be any different. I also reminded him that we are of course free to make our own choices. God did not fashion us as droids.
I’ve had a whole day to think over his response and my answer, and there are of course some things I would add if and when we get to continue this discussion. Going along with what we’ve been hearing at church, we must first know the character and motives of God before we can place our trust in Him for our lives. Many people resist searching out God’s plans for their lives because they either don’t know God well enough or they don’t want to know him well enough. The words of Jeremiah to the Israelites speak of God’s heart for His people. They were in a tough situation to say the least, but God still promised good for them. We probably will never face exile as they did, but we face numerous obstacles, some minor and some devastating. Facing those obstacles, we have a choice to keep trusting God and His promise to work things out for the good of those who love Him, or to falsely think that He either doesn’t care or somehow wants bad things for us, and turn away from Him. When I was facing the possibility of a miscarriage that did end in the loss of twins, I remember hearing the question “why?” coming from my heart, over and over. As I prayed through the sadness, I could hear God countering my question with one of His own: “But do you trust me?” As I watched my husband endure the strains of his medical training, I felt the same confusion, frustration, and sadness. But as I gave all those feelings and more to God in prayer, I knew I could trust Him. I know His grace and love sustained both my husband and myself through the darkest valleys of those years. Even though I don’t know why my life took such turns, I knew all along that His faithfulness, His love, His goodness, hadn’t changed, and never would.
I can’t expect my young boy to know God this way yet. He just hasn’t experienced enough in life yet to know God through deep sorrow and hurt. Learning to see the goodness of God in a bad situation is a benchmark of faith. We hope for what isn’t seen. We look to examples of His faith and love in our past and in the lives of others to remind us to keep trusting. The ultimate example, of course, of God bringing about good through a horrible event is His own Son’s death on the Cross. The fact that Jesus is alive is the very basis for my trust in God to bring about good. My prayer for my children–and for all of us–is that we can see God for who He is and learn to trust Him no matter what. My heart has such a peace within it, knowing that I have put my trust in someone who is more than worthy of it. I am excited to see His plans unfold in the life of my family.