Tuesday night our church had a women's ministry dinner. It was a great time of fellowship, and I enjoyed getting to know some of the lovely ladies from our church. After dinner one of the sweet ladies gave a devotional about Jeremiah 29.
I think the first thing that comes to mind when I hear Jeremiah 29 is verse 11:
"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." (NLT)
I have probably heard this verse at least a thousand times, but I'm not sure I had ever heard what came before verse 11. This is what my sweet friend detailed at our dinner. Because I really felt like God was speaking to me through her, I wanted to share with all of you.
Jeremiah 29 is a letter written from Jeremiah to the Israelites who have been exiled to Babylon. The Israelites weren't happy about being in Babylon. They didn't think it was the place they were supposed to be; they wanted to go back home to Jerusalem. Then they get a letter from Jeremiah....
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 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." (NLT)
God is telling the people to settle down and go about their normal everyday lives. He wants them to make Babylon home and invest in it because that is where He wants them to be. In verses 8 and 9 God warns the Israelites not to listen to false prophets who were telling them that they would only be in Babylon for a short time. Then we come to verses 10-14
This is what the Lord says: "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. 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. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you, " says the Lord. "I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land."
Seventy years is a long time! Some of the Israelites would never make it back to Jerusalem, but what does God say? He says "I have a plan! Trust me; I am only looking out for your good!"
My sweet friend also shared this poem...
Welcome to Holland by Emily Perl Kingsley
I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability- to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It's like this...
When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip- to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.
After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."
"Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."
But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.
The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.
So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would have never met.
It's just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there awhile and you catch your breath, you look around...and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills...and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.
But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy...and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say, "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."
And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away...because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.
But...if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things...about Holland.
While this poem is specifically about having a special needs child, I feel that the overall analogy of Italy and Holland can be used in life in general. It's like the Israelites...Babylon was their Holland- not what they planned or what they thought was best, but what God had planned for them. I know in some aspects of my life I have Holland and not Italy, Babylon and not Jerusalem.
When I went to pharmacy school, Jason and I had already been dating for a year. I knew he was the man I wanted to marry, but I had to get through school first. For the four years of pharmacy school I planned to have a great job before graduation and of course to marry Jason as soon as possible after graduation and start my life as a pastor's wife. And of course Jason and I would have our own place, a nice place. All plans of Jerusalem/Italy. As graduation neared Jason and I were facing the possibility of getting married and neither of us being employed. We faced the facts and decided it would be best for us to live in the basement at my parents' house until we could get on our feet. Sounds a lot like Babylon/Holland to me!
Jason and I are settling in Babylon/Holland, and God has blessed us and provided for us. I was able to find a job even if it is just part time, and Jason has managed to stay busy with construction work. God has always, always provided for us! I know that we are exactly where he wants us right now, and I trust fully in His plan for our lives. I refuse to miss out on his blessings because I am focused on what might have been.
Are you in Babylon or Holland in your life? Take heart! The Lord has a better plan than we could ever imagine!
"Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think." Ephesians 3:20 (NLT)