26: Plans for good #Lent2021

“I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “plans for good and not for evil, to give you the future you hope for.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

The scripture verse above continues to guide my journey through each day. I first happened upon this verse in 1980, during a time of depression and uncertainty. I had it ‘posted’ onto my fridge door for decades, but it got lost in the couple of house moves we had. However, I never lost the essence of those words and the way they made me feel.

Whether it was through battling with family relationships and differences of opinion, discord among attendees over difficult decisions at the church we attended or my own debates with the God of justice, love and light who protects and shelters us, or whether it was figuring out what it meant when ill health captured my body or when poverty overwhelmed me and stole my vision, it was (and is) during these times that God’s words held sway over my thoughts.

The future I thought might be mine (aged 10 years) was I would be a missionary in Africa … one of the reasons I went into nursing. Then when I got sick (kidneys) and had to give up nursing, I was so lost; I couldn’t imagine what God wanted for me!

Then, I got married, and that seemed to be what God was leading me to … only to find out that was a direction that was ‘on the way to’ rather than my final destination. When it became apparent my marriage was not right, I again felt so lost, especially as I believed marriage was ‘until death do us part.’ But a counsellor told me that I was carrying a corpse around, a dead relationship that stank! She pointed out it needed a respectable funeral … a divorce! It was a huge relief and I was able to let that relationship go.

After this, I believed God was calling me into ministry again, as a Pastor. When that too took me down a seemingly dead end street, I found a way through, not a conventional main road though, but one that opened up from a dirt track and became wider and more accessible the further I went.

My ministry is now clear to me. It’s to offer good news to those who are downtrodden and to shine a light on the way out for those held captive (Luke 4.18), especially in regards to autism and to gender dysphoria.

During times of stress, loss and uncertainty, it’s not easy to ‘see’ the outcome of ‘good’ versus ‘evil’. But, I guess that is just it … when things are going well we may not question or take time to reflect, we are simply taken up with what is. I’m not saying that God deliberately lets things get out of control or sends stress and turmoil our way so we remember Him! No, His love and concern for us don’t waver, whatever our situation.

Sometimes I have felt guilty for not spending enough time in prayerful conversation or in reading His Word … but I think guilt doesn’t help me nor does it come from Love. Guilt only adds coal to the fire of accusation causing further guilt! Instead, I aim to remind myself that God is Love. Love only wants the best for us. The best for us might not be the window I look through at times of loss, as my vision is blurred by tears. But God sees the way ahead, I can take His hand and trust Him to lead the way and guide me through the ‘now’ and bring me gently and lovingly to the place or future he has for me. It’s in this knowledge that I can rest, whatever the future holds. I may not know the future, but I know who does. Ω

Reflect: What future did you once hope for? Is that where you are now, or has God led you to a different place? How has this been a plan for good?

What is this? Lent is the 40 days, excluding Sundays, before Easter. Traditionally it is a time of intense reflection and pilgrimage. To help you on this journey, Sanctuary has put together 40 stories from people both within and beyond the congregation, with associated questions for reflection and prayer. A reading will be uploaded every day of Lent.

#Lent2021. Real People, Real Stories: 40 Readings for Lent, Sanctuary, 2021. Image credit: Rachel Coyne on Unsplash.

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