Day 9: July 27, 2017
Growing up, I learned to speak “Christianese” as a second language. In fact, by the time I made it through elementary school, I’m certain I was fluent in it. Words like salvation, justification and sanctification were all part of the norm. The phrase “and it came to pass” rings with a very familiar tune. As in, “And it came to pass in the six hundredth and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from off the earth” (Genesis 8:13 KJV) and “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed” (Luke 2:1 KJV). According to my Bible app, in the King James Version (the only Bible I used during my childhood years), “and it came to pass” appears over 400 times. It only makes sense that at some point, someone used the phrase as a sermon analogy or teaching illustration and it has now become somewhat of a slogan. If you don’t like your current season of life, hang on, because it, too will come to pass. As if we were talking about the weather . . .
“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. . . . 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.’”
Jeremiah 29:4-7 NLT emphasis mine
The promise of a passing season was not what the Israelite captives heard. No, they were told just the opposite. Plan to stay – and not just for a week or a few months, no they would be there for SEVENTY YEARS. Some of their generation would never make it home, never again taste freedom this side of Heaven. These are not verses that get put on beautifully crafted greeting cards and plaques. No one makes “plan to stay” into a slogan for their life. And yet, sometimes that is exactly what we are called to do.
I have been fighting hard against this call to stay, feeling more like the pouty Jonah than the eager Isaiah, but last week, I couldn’t escape the conviction. During a service at the annual convention for our denomination, a speaker spoke powerfully about evangelism and loving the broken people in our lives. We were encouraged to picture their faces, remember their names, pray for them boldly and love them compassionately. In the darkness of the auditorium, tears streamed down my face as I thought of a mother I knew who had lost her son to brain cancer and the many faces of doctors, nurses, patients and families I see every month at the hospital. But no, God, I don’t want this. I want you to heal my son . . . now. Please don’t keep us here. Bring it to pass. I fought hard that night. Yet, I could sense the Holy Spirit pursuing me. Surrender. Stop fighting. For however long you live in this place of fear and heartache and even grief, give it to me. There is purpose in this place and it’s not just a purpose to refine you. Let me use you to reach others. He was reminding me our suffering is not a vacuum absent of God’s glory and purpose.
I wish I could tell you that I have fully surrendered and have stopped fighting, but that wouldn’t be true. I don’t know how yet. The pain is so real some days and other days, I really, REALLY want to forget. Thank the Lord He is patient with me and His capacity for love and sacrifice is far greater than my own. And I am beyond grateful that even in the darkness His word speaks truth I need to hear . . . even when I’m too afraid to believe it.
“Now we have this treasure in clay jars, so that this extraordinary power may be from God and not from us. We always carry the death of Jesus in our body, so that the life of Jesus may also be displayed in our body. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’s sake, so that Jesus’s life may also be displayed in our mortal flesh. So then, death is at work in us, but life in you. For we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you. Indeed, everything is for your benefit so that, as grace extends through more and more people, it may cause thanksgiving to increase to the glory of God.”
2 Corinthians 4:7, 10-12, 14-15 CSB