Back in January, I chose a word and a corresponding passage for the year. BOLD, Acts 4:23-31 (though I’ve hyperlinked the beginning of the chapter here as well for context).
I admit, I feel like I’ve done anything but live up to that or at least work on that boldness I was so keen on developing seven months ago. I feel like I’ve actually slipped away from where I was. It feels like anxiety has overtaken all of my decisions, as if there’s such a lack of confidence that I can do what I’m setting out to do. It’s like I’m stuck, though I know I’m not.
I’m not stuck, I’m just being held still as I’m trying to keep myself from squirming my way out of the Almighty’s grasp. He is holding me still for a reason, and frankly I’m a bit frustrated at that fact. I don’t know what the reason is. Every bone in my body wants to keep trying and trying and trying to get things moving in my post-grad life; I want to dive head-first into the career I’ve been working towards for the past few years of my life, to start supporting myself more, and to maybe find a place twenty minutes drive from my parents. I want to get to all those milestones and every bone in me wants to skip the process because I’m stubborn and impatient.
Being stubborn, impatient, and a bit frustrated, I took a step back for a week or so from being in the Word. Anxiety and depression hit me more and more until I at least opened myself back up to seeing Him in nature and in the people of Bermuda I was so blessed to meet along with my parents. It was all hitting me so hard until I took time to just be.
I realized how much I was striving, no matter how much I denied that I was. And though I admit that I’ve still had limited time spent reading my Bible since I got back, there’s one word that continues to come back:
Until a few days ago when Psalm 42 was on my heart (a psalm that I don’t think I could’ve recalled even the main idea of because I hadn’t gotten to read it myself yet), I didn’t see how often that word has been coming up in the past few months. So, in a time when I can explain how I feel no better than the descendants of Korah did, and understand that I could be responding better for my own sake–
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.
My soul is cast down within me;
therefore I will REMEMBER you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
from Mount Mizar.Psalm 42:5-6 (ESV), emphasis added
– I went back to some of what I wrote when He did fulfill a promise… when He did get me across another “finish” line.
And as I was looking back to my last post trying to remind myself that God fulfills His promises and there is joy to be found in every bit of the process [that is much clearer to my human eyes in hindsight], I realized how much I’d (sort of prophetically, I suppose) called myself out when I said
[My degree] was not handed to me on a silver platter, and that— rather than it simply being bestowed upon me— is how I know God cares not only about our goals and dreams, but also how the process forms us into someone that reflects Him more as a painting reflects the person that painted it.
It’s about the process. It’s about understanding that wherever you are, so long as you trust and have faith in the very God that took on the form of a servant to care for people, love them, show them how to really love, and to die for them the worst possible death so that He could pass into death and defeat it on the third day, there is hope. (Cue to some of you probably whipping out your Bibles to Jeremiah 29:11). And there’s nothing wrong with that verse (it’s just a really common reference), but I personally think it’s so much more weighty with some of its context.
This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 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. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”Jeremiah 29:10-14 (ESV)
Some takeaways from Jeremiah
I’m not great with numbers, but I do often find their symbolism fascinating. Take the seventy years the Lord says will pass before the promise to Babylon is fulfilled, for example. Seventy is also a rather significant number when it comes to Gideon’s seventy sons, particularly Abimelech.
Being the product of 7 and 10, let’s break down what this number means symbolically, accordingly.
Seven is most often considered symbolic of God’s perfection. This goes back to the completion of creation, which took six days and one day (which He consecrated as holy) because it was the day that even God decided to simply be. And it’s that seventh day that God set apart that we should rest in Him too. It’s that seventh day that has given us space to just be as we were created to be, even if we don’t always use it accordingly since the Fall in the garden.
Ten is also symbolic of completion, though mostly emphasized in a different capacity: God’s Law. Think of the Ten Commandments given to Moses in Exodus. The fullness of the Law is summed up in the ten statements God gives us not so He can simply tell us what to do, but as a blueprint of how we were designed. Stepping outside of the boundaries the Law sets is what makes us incomplete because we are sacrificing some part of the whole being that God created us to be. When we envy, we sacrifice the satisfaction there is in being content in God, who reveals Himself generously to those who earnestly seek Him first. When we hate, we give up our once pure ability to love. The list goes on, but I think you get the point here.
He will _______ His good promise.
What God says is as good as done. How fulfillment comes about will often not make sense to us or come on what we might think is an “ideal” schedule, but what God says will happen, will happen.
I was in a Bible study once, and we were discussing the book of Jonah in its entirety. Many people know Jonah was swallowed by a big fish and spit out three days later, but I want to focus on why Jonah is actually significant to this particular point of God’s fulfillment.
See, Jonah didn’t want to warn Nineveh of their impending destruction because he knew God to be merciful. Jonah was anything but with this city– he hated them and their sin and simply saw that they deserved the wrath of God throughout the entirety of this book. Jonah went to every length to not have to warn them, but God ensured His command was carried out by Jonah. So Jonah (after the big fish and all), prophesied Nineveh’s destruction which he did not see come.
Instead, some 120,000 Ninevites (plus whatever number of men were on the boat with Jonah in the beginning) turned to God and were shown mercy. This enraged Jonah, and the book ends with God making the point of “why do you care more about your own shade from some plant I provided you than the 120,000 souls you just helped me save?”
So you might be wondering, where is God fulfilling this word He gave Jonah to pass on to the Ninevites?
Flip your Bible just a few pages past Jonah, past Micah, and look at the first section header of Nahum (if your Bible has section titles). There’s the fulfillment. It just wasn’t when Jonah imagined it would be– when he wanted it to be. But had it been Jonah’s timing, Heaven would be down well over 120,000.
big, big plans
This sort of goes off of the last point I made about Jonah. God’s ways are always better. Yes, there’s that factor of how many souls God saves, but ultimately it’s not about numbers.
God cares more about the journey than anything we accomplish. Sure, He wants us to reach all the cool milestones and all, but I truly believe God is more concerned with the journey for two reasons:
- His plan to develop your character
- On this side of eternity, we never really “make it,” even as we achieve great things like finishing college, getting engaged/married, having kids, etc.
Going back to Jonah 4 for a moment, we see this closing conversation between this minor prophet being the opposite of what God said our response ought to be through Jeremiah in the above passage. Though Jonah calls on God, he calls to complain and to make all these situations about Himself, to which the question is posed:
But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.” And the Lord said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”Jonah 4:9-11 ESV
Will we pout over a plant simply because it was helping us, or will we rejoice in knowing that the Lord has used us to save people from eternal death? Will we long only for ourselves and our perceived needs, or will we rest in knowing our every need is provided for even when it might not seem like it?
My point is, if you are loved and cared for beyond any human reason (which you are loved by God in such a way), shouldn’t your first and only response be to thank Him and praise Him that He loves you in more than just word? Jesus proclaimed to the whole world that you– even if only you were saved by the cross and resurrection– are so loved by God that He saw you were to die for. He proclaimed this without really saying it. He proclaimed it in willingly getting up on that cross, giving up His Spirit, and rising again on the third day. What other response is there than gratitude that He took on once what we deserved to take on for eternity out of sheer mercy and grace? What other response is there to that than gratitude and praise?
Where will He be?
The interesting part about this passage is that God doesn’t say where He will be. All we are given is that we’ll find Him when we earnestly seek Him. We know that God is in Heaven from several other passages. We know that God is omnipresent– He is all-present and ever-existing. But where is Heaven?
See, the thing is that our finite minds can’t quite fully wrap around the fact that Heaven isn’t necessarily over our heads or somewhere in the sky that we can’t see. Heaven isn’t a place, it’s a presence. That’s how God is able to be omnipresent and still in Heaven (other than His omnipotence giving Him that power even if Heaven was a place). Heaven is not a place, but it is His very presence. And I think that this ties back to my big, big plans point. He doesn’t care so much about a destination because Heaven is the only destination that matters, and that’s not even a place to get to but a presence to be in… exist in… abide in.
Where does that leave us?
Gratitude and praise are more bold than we might realize, and I think that’s where I’ve been going with this whole thing (as I wrote this piece by piece throughout the summer). I tend to be pretty hard on myself, and feeling like I’m not measuring up as a Christ follower or achieving my personal goals doesn’t sit well. As I write this last section now, I’ve been struggling not to give up on myself as much as give up on God because it’s been so difficult to find a full time job. The whole thing feels more and more like an uphill battle with every rejection letter or missing response.
There’s a lyric from this song that sticks with me a lot though:
Sometimes it takes a valleySo Help me God, Benjamin William Hastings
To find an Everest of faith
And as I pictured above (and post some other pictures below), I hiked up and down Mt. Washington in New Hampshire with my dad over the summer. It’s a long story that I’ll have to post another fe blogs to tell you about, but there is no way that I personally would have made it to the summit without my mustard seed of faith; let alone back to the bottom without God burying, watering, and pruning that mustard bush until it became a full, large tree. The point is, it may not make your circumstances any better or brighter– in fact, they may seem to become a bit darker– but the reward is not in your circumstances or responding to them. The reward is in responding to Jesus first, despite your circumstances.