[Thank you Ana Galván de Tiscareño for providing a Spanish translation for this post: DIOS TIENE UN BUEN PLAN PARA TI – Aunque no lo veas]
“I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).
I wrote that verse in my best calligraphy and pinned it to the board over my desk in college – a hedge against the anxiety I felt whenever I thought about life after school and what I would do with my English major.
God has plans for me! I thought. Thank you! I read the verse so much I memorized it. It still comes to me in a still, small voice when I look into the future and see nothing.
Last year as I studied Jeremiah, preparing for the Prophets Bible study I wrote with Thomas Smith, I saw that verse in a very new light. God spoke those words to Israel when he was pleading with them to surrender to the enemy – the Babylonians, who would carry them off into exile and destroy Jerusalem and the Temple. The end of their world was coming and God wanted them to embrace exile as part of his good plan. Settle in where they take you and seek the good of that foreign city, God said, and pray for it – “for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jer 29:7).
But no! the people of Judah thought. How can that be? This (Jerusalem) is our God-given home, this life here is God’s plan for us. How can it be otherwise?
I don’t have time to go into what happened (you can read it in Jeremiah and Ezekiel, Ezra and Nehemiah: or maybe do the Bible study!) – except to say that their perception of God’s plan for them was wrong. Those who did go into exile were saved and eventually restored to their homeland, while those who did not were destroyed. Those who did go into exile learned new and great things about God and themselves that they might never have learned otherwise. The very thing that looked so dark was the instrument of their salvation.
Maybe you think you’re smack in the middle of God’s plan for you, but things are starting to fall apart. Maybe God brought your family to live where you are, he gave you a great job, you found a fabulous Catholic school for your kids, your parish is vibrant and you have an active ministry there – and suddenly, your company moves you to another state, far from everyone you know. You wonder: God – what are you doing?! This situation was so right! We belong here!
When you pray and pray for something different and it doesn’t come to pass: let God direct your life. You have no way to know what’s ahead—either in the place where you are, or the place where he’s leading you.
My ways are not yours, says the Lord. But I’m the one who loves you, who has your good in mind. “I know the plans I have for you.” Trust that I have you in this new place for a purpose. Settle in and seek the welfare of those around you.
Have you ever looked at the back of a tapestry? It can look pretty ugly. There are threads all over the place. Many colors mixed together with no rhyme or reason. Keep looking at the back, and you might want to pull out the colors you don’t like – because there’s no context to see them in.
Now turn it over and what do you see? A beautiful picture. Each one of those colors has a part in it – even the dark ones that looked ugly from the back. On the front, they provide a depth and richness that would be impossible with just the light ones.
God is the master weaver. Let him take the threads of your life in his hands – all the threads, even those that are ugly or plain – and see the beautiful picture he’ll make of it. “All things work together for good,” as St. Paul says in Romans 8:28, for those who are called according to his purpose.