Do you have a favorite scripture you cling to in times of stress? Most of us do. Most of us have more than one. Scripture is comforting in times of trouble. Comforting when there is uncertainty and unrest in our lives and in our world. Even when the promises of God seem distant and as if He isn’t listening, we know He is. We can trust His promise.
One scripture quoted often is Jeremiah 20:11—“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
What a beautiful promise, especially during this time as our hopes for a respite from the pandemic stutter to a halt? With the variants of the virus showing up, and people re-infecting, it feels as if we’ll never be rid of this monster. And yet, maybe there is a layer to this scripture that we aren’t seeing when we only read the one verse—the one beautiful promise from God.
I’ve heard several people compare the Covid restrictions to being held in captivity. Captive in our homes. Captive behind our masks. Held captive away from our family and friends. And, it feels that way. As if we’ll never have our lives back or be free to live like we are accustomed to living.
What does Jeremiah 20:10 say? The verse just prior to that wonderful promise of a future and hope? “For thus says the Lord: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place.”
Wait a minute. The Israelites were in captivity for seventy years before this promise? They had to live seventy years in captivity? Away from their land. Serving someone else. With no freedom. Think about that for today and what it might mean to us.
What if 2020 lasts until 2090? Gasp. Seventy years. Of sickness. Of death. Of civil unrest. Of being socially distanced. Of family and friends dying without us there to comfort them.
What would happen to our faith? Would we still cling to this promise of God? Would we rail at Him asking where He is when we need Him? Would we think He’d abandoned us?
Would our hearts still be tuned to Him? Would we read His word daily? Would we pray? Would we have hope? The hope of a future with peace and no evil?
Keeping the faith would be tough. Seventy years is a long time considering all the dismay and complaining over one year. Keeping the faith would mean absolute trust in the One Who thinks those thoughts of peace toward us. Trust in Him when He has our future in His hands and knows what is best for us.
Even if it’s seventy years of captivity.
And, maybe we need to look at the verses after Jeremiah 20:11. What does God say will happen then?
“Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive.” Jeremiah 29: 12-14
Maybe we need to start now—to call on God, to pray fervently, to seek Him with everything that is in us. Because He can bring us back from captivity. He can gather us up in all our brokenness and fear. He can bring us to a place with a future and a hope.
Cling to that favorite scripture and pray—hope—trust—that it will be much less than seventy years. Believe in the One Who holds our future.