Sometime during my sleeping hours last night, a verse from Scripture was offered to me and I was rather shocked by it. I thought God knew better than to give this one to me! It was Jeremiah 29:11. A verse to which I’ve been known to be highly allergic. A verse to which I have a visceral reaction. A verse I have wanted to cut from the pages of my Bible for the past few decades.
“‘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.'”
It sounds innocent enough, doesn’t it? But my lived experience hasn’t always matched up. And my negative reaction mostly comes in response to the way it’s been given (out of context) like a magic pill meant to make me feel better when my world is being torn asunder.
So what is it doing showing up now? Not by the well-meaning, but misdirected, hands of others, but by Spirit herself?
Last week I wrote to you about stopping. Specifically about when God stopped me. And in that letter I outright told you that I realized God did not stop me to harm me but to heal me. And now my words come back to boot me in the backside, because what does this Jeremiah verse say? It says the very thing I said to you – that God’s intentions are not to harm me but to prosper me – i.e. heal me and make me whole.
And I am convicted. And somewhat confounded.
How’d God sneak in the side door like that?!?
But wait. It’s not over?.
Since the verse is here with me now and sitting uncomfortably in my lap, I begin to get curious about it. And in following my curiosity, I discover something that blows my sweet, little mind?.
It concerns the word “future,” that thing God wants to give us. Do you know what it means?
It means “the after-part.”
The after-part. And just like that, I am undone … or maybe redone??
There is an after-part in all of this suffering.
- I’m thinking of Job and his later years. His after-part.
- The Israelites, the desert, and the promised land.
- The exiles in Jeremiah’s day that finally got to go home.
The disciple Peter’s words come to mind:
“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”
1 Peter 5:10
I have not so much forgotten this concept as I have forsaken it. It’s been too long in coming. Too hard to hold onto. Too painful to hope for. But friend, I believe it is the very thing that Spirit came in the inky darkness to invite me into.
It’s not lost on me that my word(s) of the year are “Dream dreams.” That they are all about looking forward. About what’s next. About the little green bits growing up under all that’s dead and dry.
The after-part: Our hope, and Our Little Life Words of the week.
- Describe your relationship/reaction/response to the verse in Jeremiah.
- Recall a time when you were given the after-part.
- Read Blessing for a Whole Heart by Jan Richardson (just scroll down a bit to get to it – she is one of my absolute favorites!) and then journal or collage in response.
- Learn about the semicolon project (a semicolon instead of a period, because the story is not over yet), then draw a semicolon on your wrist as a visual reminder.
- Our song of the week is: Someday by JJ Heller
- Help me to hope.