I’m not a winter person. Cold? I could do without it (at least I tell myself that almost every day in the winter!). It feels especially true right now here in our home: 5 of the 7 of us currently have COVID. It’s not the week we were shooting for, but, here we are.
And yet – if I were to think about actually living without winter (again, I do this frequently), there IS something I’d miss: the anticipation of spring.
Today, it’s sunny out. Temperatures might even hit the (gasp) 60s! There’s lots of sarcasm in there, but I mean this wholeheartedly: days like this are the best days… they mean spring is just around the corner.
Spring: full of fresh blooms, outdoor activities, time outside with friends, fire pit nights that go late into the night, longer days, and so much more. Knowing that it’s coming is one thing, feeling it is something else.
The anticipation is amazing: it’s also steady during a time that few things feel steady in this world.
Are You There Too?
When you look around – and I mean “bigger picture” look around – things might be far from sunny.
The war in Ukraine, the stories of bravery, the stories of terror and the blatant racism coming to light during all of it – is confusing and horrible all at once, pulling at all the heart strings and making us all wonder “what’s next?” while we cheer for the people who certainly aren’t feeling hope right now.
The frustration of politics here at home. The division that seems so clear that it penetrates all parts of life. The mixed messages regarding the pandemic: is it over? Is it ending? What’s next? Friends who are struggling. Loss. Battles we know nothing about.
These things are BIG. They’re hard to handle on our own. They’re hard to parent through. They’re hard to talk with our friends about sometimes. Big can be hard and is always heavy – especially if we carry it on our own.
There’s always a “but.”
Sometimes we roll our eyes at it. Sometimes we get frustrated by it. But in this case, we should latch on to it.
When things feel big, we don’t have to take on the heaviness on our own. We CAN look forward with hope – even when the “forward” is unknown.
Lots of us love Jeremiah 29:11, where God promises the Israelites that he has plans for them, plans to prosper them, plans to give them hope and a future.
This is great! However, if we lean fully on that promise, without the context, we might be setting ourselves up for a great disappointment. In fact, we might doubt the promise altogether.
To understand Jeremiah 29:11, we first have to look at the entire chapter leaning up to it, which reads:
29 These are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders of the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. 2 This was after King Jeconiah and the queen mother, the eunuchs, the officials of Judah and Jerusalem, the craftsmen, and the metal workers had departed from Jerusalem. 3 The letter was sent by the hand of Elasah the son of Shaphan and Gemariah the son of Hilkiah, whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent to Babylon to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. It said: 4 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. 8 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream,[a] 9 for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the Lord.
10 “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.
Does God promise them hope and a future in verse 11? For sure.
But, in the 10 verses leading up to that promise, we realize that Jeremiah is writing to the Israelites who were taken into exile in Babylon… people who had lost everything. They’re told that during this time, they’re supposed to build new lives and seek the welfare of the city to which they had been sent.
THEN – after 70 years – God promises to bring them back… to prosper them.
Yes, they’re promised hope… but it’s not a hope without hard.
When we miss seasons of winter, and cold, and war, and division, maybe – just maybe – we aren’t able to fully grasp the goodness and the full hope that comes in verse 11… and that lies in store for us as well.
God has a plan for you, for me, for our families, for those we do life with, and everyone else. He promises hope. But, sometimes hard seasons come during that time.
We are not to lose hope. We are to look to him, and look forward, but not while ignoring what’s happening around us right now.
During the Hard:
We are called to love. We are called to pray for the welfare of those around us. We’re called to be there for the mourning. We’re called to seek justice. We’re called to get on our knees and pray for those around us – leaders we want to follow and leaders we don’t, people we agree with and people we have a hard time stomaching.
We aren’t called to check out. We aren’t called to just hope Jesus comes back soon while pretending what’s happening around us isn’t happening at all, or doesn’t affect us.
We’re called to dig in, we’re called to bloom, and we’re called to connect.
Spring is Still Coming
While we dig in, while we plant roots (and sometimes dig them up and plant them again), we are able to look forward to spring, to beauty, and to goodness. The promise still stands and the promise is so so good.
If you’re struggling right now: you are not forgotten. You are not alone. You are loved.
If it’s dark: there’s still light. But it’s okay to feel the dark.
If it’s big or heavy: you can ask for help sharing the burden.
Our hope has come and is still to come. Spring is a reminder of this… to me it’s one of the best reminders.
Can you feel it? Can you see it? Friend: look up. There’s love here, you’re not alone. The battle isn’t yours to fight. The hope we have is big: hold on tight.