we would not be blind when God reveals His grace.” ~ by John Piper ~
It is impossible for me to read the quote above without immediately thinking of the verse Jeremiah 29:11:
"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 a hope and a future."
Undoubtedly many believers have found comfort in this verse and I am no exception. The circumstances under which I first truly memorized it, however, are somewhat unique.
On November 13, 1981 our family lost everything we owned: all furniture, clothing, bedding, dishes and kitchenware, garden tools, musical instruments, books, family picture albums, and last and probably least to everyone but me, the only copies of the manuscript of a book I had written. Gone - all of it, overnight.
Just to add insult to injury, our moving van had been stolen by a young man whom a pastor friend of ours was trying to help overcome drug addiction. He and his crew stole the truck from the church parking lot where it was locked up for the night. Nothing was ever recovered from the theft. The fact that the crime came about through our church / pastoral contacts cut deeply.
On the first Sunday that I went to church, after the robbery, I was visiting a congregation where I did not ordinarily attend. I sat there alone, angry, crushed, mystified.
Please understand, it was not just this loss alone. I had just lived through five years of betrayal and heartache and hardly knew which way to turn. Yes, I knew they were just "things" that had been taken. And, yes, I was grateful, truly grateful, that my children were safe and well. But this was simply one blow too many for me to absorb as I struggled through my personal "dark night of the soul."
So there I sat, on the back pew, shoulders slumped, mind numb, heart wracked with anguish over what this latest grief would do to my children's faith in God. How do you explain to two teenagers and an eight year-old that everything they had, all their sports trophies, and school projects, and fishing gear bought with money they earned from a paper route, was all gone? AND had been stolen by someone connected with a church!
Finally, I lifted my head enough to glance around the unfamiliar sanctuary, and there on the wall to my right, was a large banner. It contained the words of Jeremiah 29:11.
Tears began to stream down my face as I asked God to forgive me for doubting his love and his plan for my life. If only we would believe and remember that God is plotting for our glory.
* * *
Fast forward thirty years. I wish there was time to tell you of the marvelous way God guided and blessed me over the last twenty five of those thirty years. However, I would first have to acknowledge that there were to be five more years of loss and heartbreak to endure after the robbery. I look back upon those ten years as my "decade of despair."
Nevertheless, I can honestly testify that, after that Sunday morning, never again did I allow doubt about whether God loved me to settle in my heart. Regarding doubt and errant thoughts, Martin Luther once famously said that he could not prevent birds from flying over his head, but he could keep them from building a nest in his hair.
Of course, I sometimes stumbled and fell, and often all I could do was cling to Him. It was all I was capable of at the time as, one by one, I was stripped not only of material things, but of relationships, home and health. But His grace was greater than my grief and it carried me through. God did "make all things beautiful" in His own time and eventually I could say, "It is well with my soul."
* * *
Are you heartbroken? Do you wonder if God really loves you, if He knows your pain or cares about your suffering? Yes, He does! Even in your darkest hour, He knows you, loves you, and is plotting for your glorious future. * * *
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:2-3 (NIV)