Stories, Jokes, Movies - All my favorite ones feature a twist I was not expecting. The twist is why I’m a fan of M Night Shyamalan movies (yes I just googled the spelling of his name). It’s the reason why my favorite jokes are funny… and it’s the payoff at the end of so many of my favorite stories.
I think God likes the TWIST just as much as I do…. because it can reveal a new and fascinating side to something I thought I already had figured out.
The guys and I had been talking about our favorite bible verses the other day…. (I KNOW how that sentence sounds, believe me.. if I’m honest I didn’t decide on a favorite bible verse until the first time I was asked to put it next to my signature and I realized I wouldn’t look like much of a Christian unless I had one. Ha.)
One of the guys mentioned 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.’”
That’s a wonderful and comforting passage. It reminds me that no matter where I’m at in life right now, that God is thinking of me, and is already preparing a future for me. I can absolutely see why this would be a favorite verse of favorite verses….
I think, though… that some of us find this hard to believe. We look at our lives… our circumstances… our struggles… and we can’t help but ask…
"God, where are your plans? I don’t see them. If you plan to prosper me, why am I struggling? If you promise not to harm me, why do I feel hurt and wronged, sometimes even by other believers? I don’t feel a hope or see a future…. Where are you?"
For me, and I think a lot of us…. we read that verse, and it feels as though God is promising that He will eventually make life pleasant and comfortable for us. It feels like if we hold on long enough, believe strongly enough, and pray hard enough…. God promises to reward us with wealth, a family, a beautiful house, a job with paid vacation and medical benefits, and a healthy long life.
We are quick to say that we are aware that “these aren’t the things that really matter”…. but deep down we believe that if God was really prospering us, we would surely have these things.
So sometimes when we don’t see these things in our lives, or even the hope for these things in the future, we can’t help but feel disappointed. We wonder if God really sees us, and really has plans to prosper us.
This, I think…. is the TWIST.
I’ve begun to wonder if God means something entirely different when He says “prosper”. What if it’s when we’re at our lowest points… when we’re in the midst of our deepest struggles…. that we have the chance to prosper the most? Life-changing moments come in many shapes and sizes… but the most pivotal ones… the most crucial defining moments, are often the hardest ones to live through.
In Genesis, Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, and he was sent to prison after that. He had done nothing wrong, yet he was treated brutally and unfairly. I’m SURE there were moments when he looked around and failed to see God in his circumstances… but in the end, what became of him? Second-in-command of all of Egypt, even as a foreigner. His own brothers didn’t even recognize him because his experiences had helped shape him into the person he was made to be. All other kinds of blessings aside, the true gain was who he BECAME.
Maybe God is doing that in our lives right now. Maybe when He says he has plans to prosper us, He means it the way he did for Joseph. Maybe God is already working in our lives to prosper us in His way. He’s not doing it in spite of our circumstances, He’s doing it through our circumstances.
What if His plans to prosper us don’t just exist in some rosy future we imagine for ourselves… what if He is prospering us in his own way - here and now? What if our circumstances aren’t evidence of God’s absence, but instead they’re the very things that enable us to EXPERIENCE Him.
I’ve come to feel God closest in my life during the tough times. These are the times I’m reminded of my need for Him. I lean on Him… listen for Him… and I can feel him shaping me into something better than what I used to be. It’s hard. It hurts… but it is good….. maybe even better than what I know how to pray for.
So this is what I believe…..
"Maybe the shattered parts are the places where Your love starts, and I am closer to where You are with Every Beat of My Broken Heart."