I’m no longer a slave to fear. I am a child of God.
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As I sang during worship today, I allowed the words to wash over me, and I had a realization. It’s one I have probably had before, but it came to me again today, and I couldn’t help but feel there was a reason for that. As I worshipped, hands clasped in front of me, heart aching, I realized I have been a slave to fear.
Fear got me here. Fear of what would happen to my family if I didn’t have a job. Fear of what my worth would be if I didn’t get the type of job I (thought) I had wanted. Fear of being stationary somewhere, yet fear of leaving.
What would happen if I gave everything to God? What does that even look like? How uncomfortable would we be? How could He possibly solve our financial difficulties? How could He possibly bring healing or restoration to my broken marriage?
Fear of what I cannot see. Fear of the unknown.
I don’t know what it looks like to fully trust God. How do I do that? What does it mean? I have been going through the book The Power of the Praying Wife and reading those prayers with every ounce of my soul I can muster. Most days, tears stream down my face as I do. As I utter those prayers, I try to believe they will inspire supernatural, Godly change. I try to give everything I am struggling with to Him, yet I know my fear holds me back. I read each chapter and utter each prayer with as much of a heart of a believer I can muster.
But is that showing trust in Him?
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I am still afraid. Afraid He will not grant me the desires of my heart, as the Bible promises, afraid He is not listening. I feel abandoned.
So maybe that is why God guided me to this particular church. Today’s message was “God is for the forgotten,” week 2 of the series “God for the Rest of Us.”
The pastor walked us through bits of the story of the Israelites, specifically chapters 1 and 2 of Exodus and chapter 29 of Jeremiah. In Exodus, they spent hundreds of years in slavery. They probably felt abandoned and forgotten, and yet, when the Pharaoh who had enslaved them eventually died, they still had enough faith to cry out to God. God heard their cry and recognized the urgency.
In Jeremiah, they are enslaved yet again. In Jeremiah 29, God tells them to build houses and have families where they are. In essence, he tells them to take care of where they are and what they have and to keep living. And Jeremiah 29:10 provides information that may be the most difficult to swallow: “For thus says the Lord: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you…”
Let that sink in. Seventy years. The Israelites had to be frustrated by this message. They are expected to live 70 more years in captivity? I can imagine there was a sense of relief in knowing it will all end eventually, but there was probably sadness in the knowledge that some may not live to see the end. Then, some may even have questioned if it was ever going to happen, even after that promise.
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There were three highlights from this message for me: (1) God sees you and shares your concern; (2) take care of where you are and keep moving forward; and (3) it won’t happen on your time, but on God’s. Exodus and Jeremiah both show that God cares for His people and will deliver them from their pain. Jeremiah, though, serves as a reminder: we must keep living, even in the midst of pain, and we can’t expect things to happen when we want them to.
I found the idea of taking care of where you are interesting since one message that affected me at my previous church was on being content where we are so God can move us forward. I tried to be content there, and, as I settled into that and felt peace, I received a job offer. I thought maybe that contentment led to the job offer. Looking back, I think the job offer was a temptation I succumbed to, not a Godly way to move us forward.
Not enough time had passed, and, while I am still learning, if there is one thing I know, it is that God will allow time to pass before moving you forward.
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As the pastor (I think now my pastor) joked, Jeremiah 29:11-13 seems to be a favorite among Christians: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for me with all your heart.”
I can see why. It provides hope. It shows God’s promise to us that He will not leave us, that He is always thinking of our future.
Most of all, though, Jeremiah shows us that God is always at work, even if we can’t see it.
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I walked away feeling more hopeful, an experience I have felt each time I have attended this church or a small group associated with it. But I also felt convicted. I have been praying for things to happen, but I realized I was praying things would happen on my time. That is not how God works.
We always want something when we want it. We live in a world of instant gratification. But God doesn’t work that way. Things will happen when we trust completely in Him. He has a timeline for us, even if He doesn’t always share it with us as specifically as He did with the Israelites in Jeremiah.
I was reminded today that God is listening. I was reminded He has not forgotten me. While I will have to continue to work to give everything to Him and completely trust in Him, and even just learn what that all means, somehow that gives me the strength to keep praying.
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Have you ever felt forgotten or abandoned? What helped you get through it?
Have you ever needed reminding God has not forgotten you? What verse reminded you?