We’ve never experienced anything quite like this global pandemic. Over the last few months, we’ve watched the world shut down. Even as things begin to reopen, many of us are left wondering, “Will life ever return to normal?”
As Christians, we look to God as our hope, and there’s a verse we like to turn to that reminds us of his promises. You may have it memorized:
For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11 NLT)
We love this verse because it’s beautiful, but did you know God spoke this to his people when they were in a shutdown?
If you flip back to previous chapters in Jeremiah, you’ll read that the people of Judah had been warned for centuries that if they didn’t stop worshipping idols, God was going to allow them to be taken captive by the Babylonians.
Babylon had always been known as the “anti-God culture,” so God’s people didn’t think he would ever let that happen to them! They continued to ignore God’s instruction, so God finally followed through, and the people of Judah went into Babylonian captivity.
While most of God’s people ignored his instruction throughout this time, there were people in Judah who still faithfully worshipped God—they tried to do the right thing despite being surrounded by others who worshipped idols. Even though they may not have deserved this punishment, God told them to accept it. He told them that anyone who surrendered to the Babylonians would live, but if they stayed in the holy city of Jerusalem, they would die.
That seemed counterintuitive! Surrender to the “anti-God culture” instead of staying in the holy city? But these faithful worshippers did as God asked—they surrendered. These obedient people are who God is speaking to in Jeremiah 29:11!
With that context, let’s read it again:
For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
(Jeremiah 29:11 NLT)
There are a lot of beautiful words in this verse, but the most important word is the first one: “for.” A synonym for that could be “because.” Everything God promises in Jeremiah 29:11 is based on something he says right before that:
This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says to all the captives he has exiled to Babylon from Jerusalem: “Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare… You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again.” (Jeremiah 29:4-10 NLT)
Wow. Babylon is the last place a God-follower would ever want to be, but God asked his people to accept it… and plan to stay awhile!
The similarities between where we are in 2020 and where God’s people were as captives in Babylon are clear. Now, we’re not in Babylon, and I hope we’re not in this global pandemic for 70 years, but can you see the lesson we can learn from this story?
It’s as if God is saying to his people, “I’ve relocated you. You’re in a shutdown. It’s going to last a while… but get on with your life!”
He’s saying the same to us!
So, how do you and I accept the shutdown we’re in? Here are four practical ways.
- Obey God.
We may not be able to heal the coronavirus or restart the economy, but we can do what God has asked us to do. We can love our spouse. We can pray. We can read God’s Word. We can do everything we can to be a blessing to others during this time.
- Accept reality.
Reality can be painful, and sometimes we want to deny it and take things into our own hands. But in Jeremiah, we see God’s message to those in a comparable situation: You’re going to be here a while. Accept it.
- Seize available opportunities.
This is the key to restarting during the shutdown. There may be things you can’t do right now, but there are things you can do.
In Jeremiah 29:5-6 (NLT), God told his people, “Build homes… plant gardens… Marry and have children… Multiply! Do not dwindle away!”
Think about how this translates to your life. How can you seize available opportunities in 2020?
- Trust the rest to God.
Ephesians 3:20 (NIV) says, “(God) is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine…”
If you follow Jesus and you’re overwhelmed by the shutdown we’re in, I can tell you: It’s going to be OK. With God, the best is always yet to come!
Learn more by watching Mark Hoover’s special series Restart!
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