“Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to The Lord on it’s behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” Jeremiah 29:7
This verse has played a powerful role in my life. The Lord brought me to it a few years ago as I was praying through a major decision in our family’s life. I was serving in a great church, with great friends, and with great security when God began to lay on my heart that he was about to change my ministry focus.
While it was becoming clear that He was calling me into more of a preaching/pastoral role, I had no idea exactly where that would be or what that would look like. Were we to move, find another church, start a church, go back to school? At the same time, I was becoming very discontent with Clarksville – not so much because of Clarksville, but because of my own desire for a change, for something different. I was praying that God would make this ministry transition simple and have a church with palm trees in it’s front yard extend a call to me to be their pastor.
God didn’t do that…
Instead, what God did was bring me to Jeremiah 29. Now, most of us are familiar with this chapter – or at least one verse in this chapter. We often quote verse 11 when we, or people we know, need to be reminding that God is for us;
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares The Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
We know this verse forwards and backwards! And, when we are in a place of life we don’t necessarily care for, we like to remind God of this verse, too! “Hey God, don’t you remember that promise for welfare, future, and hope??? Time for you to move me out of this difficulty and into a place that matches my definition of welfare and hope!”
Here’s the problem: while we are familiar with Jeremiah 29:11, we are not familiar with the context of Jeremiah 29:11. You see, Jeremiah was a prophet of God and his job was to convey God’s message to God’s children. What’s interesting, though, is that God’s children are currently living in exile and slavery. In fact, just one verse earlier in verse 10 God has informed them that they were going to be in exile for 70 MORE YEARS!
So, what is God saying to His Children? This: “Hey, kids. I know you are in a tough spot. I know you are not happy with your current location. I know the difficulty it is for you. But guess what, not only am I the one who allowed you to be taken into exile, but I’m also the one who is the source of your welfare, future, and hope. Trust me. I have you here for a reason, its for your good, and I will deliver you from it in my timing.”
Now, here is where verse 7 quoted above comes in. Before informing His children that they would be in exile for 70 more years, he told them to settle in, build houses, plant gardens, get married and have kids. In the middle of their captor’s land, they were to continue to live life as normal (v.5-6). In addition to that, they were to seek the welfare of the city in which they were now living! They were to care for the city, pray for the city, love the city, and love the people of the city (who were their enemies, by the way).
When I read this, God communicated a very clear message to my heart: “Josh, by my sovereign hand I placed you in Clarksville. It might not be where you would choose to be, but it is where I have chosen you to be. So, settle in and make it your home. Also, don’t just exist there, but SEEK THE WELFARE OF THE CITY WHERE I HAVE SENT YOU. If you’ll do this, not only will the city find welfare, but you will, too.”
God used this verse in my life to teach me that it’s His responsibility to place my family where He wants us to be and it is my responsibility to love, serve, and seek the welfare of that place. Once we started to practice this, we began to find great peace and contentment with our place in life. Not only that, but we have really grown to enjoy living here. This is our home, and we’re growing love it, because it is where God has placed us!
Yesterday, my wife shared a thought with me from a bible study she is leading at our church’s Women’s Retreat that reminded me all over again of God’s instruction to His children:
“You will not find joy in your reality until you embrace your reality as God’s present plan for your life.” (Wow! That’s tweet-worthy!)
You might be in a place right now of great discontentment. You might wish you lived somewhere else, worked somewhere else, were married to someone else, had different kids, had no kids, had more kids, had different neighbors, had a new car, etc… And, because of your discontentment with life, there is no joy to be found. The key is to realize that God has you where he wants you to be. You might be here for a while, so stop fighting against where God has you, settle in, embrace your reality, seek what is best for those around you, and look to God alone as your source of welfare and hope.