Summary: Jeremiah 29:11 gives us a word of hope that is sorely needed in the dark times of our lives.
Getting to Know One Who Knows
We live life in a dark place, don’t we? I don’t mean dark in terms of evil, although the world is in many ways saturated with evil and that contributes to the darkness I am speaking about. Life is dark and evil contributes to that darkness. I am not speaking simply of the darkness of evil though. There is a tremendous darkness related to sadness. I am not talking about the darkness of sadness even though sadness often makes the darkness more stark. I am talking about the darkness of the unknown. Life is dark because we simply cannot see the end. We want to know the end. How will things turn out? Is there a purpose for the problems I am having? Those questions are seldom answered with the specificity. With the passing of years we will be able to look back on a circumstance of difficulty with satisfaction of knowing that something good came out of them. In the immediacy of the moment the difficulties of life usually serve to shroud life in darkness of confusion and doubt instead of enlightening us about God’s ways. Let’s think about that for a moment this morning.
Just how dark is the world we live in? Every year is marked by at least one tragic circumstance that has global affects.
• 2002 will be remembered as the year of the sniper.
• 2001 is the year of 9/11
If we think of personal & family situation the period that is defined by tragedy or hardship becomes much shorter. Have you ever had someone say, “Don’t you remember we talked about that last month?”
• “That is when I was deciding whether or not to put my mother in a nursing home. I don’t remember anything from then.”
• “That is when my son was caught with drugs at school everything else is a blur.”
• “That is the week I got into a car accident.”
• “That is the day I lost my job.”
• “That is the day my mom had a heart attack.”
Each one of these difficult circumstances shrouds us in darkness. They lead us to ask questions we cannot answer. We try to answer them. People will often try to give us answers that will lighten our darkness. Let’s think about a few of those answers we often hear.
A very common response to life’s difficulties is the idea that God will make everything right. God is a just God. He will always make everything right. Romans 8:28 is the benchmark verse for this answer. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Scripture is no less true today than it was the day Paul wrote that. I believe that God does work for the good of those who love him. There is no doubt in my mind that God’s promise is still true. My concern is for people to whom this verse is recited by someone who does not acknowledge life’s real difficulties. We throw this verse around as if it were a universal analgesic. It makes everything better. We behave as if they are magical words to soothe everyone’s pain. They aren’t.
• A couple holding their lifeless, newborn baby won’t be soothed by them.
• Neither will the woman who fell asleep at the wheel, veered into oncoming traffic and killed two people.
• The man who just lost his job will wonder about a God doing this to him in the guise of working for his good.
• So will the man who was loading packages into his car at a Home Depot when his wife was killed instantly by a sniper’s bullet.
God will make things right, simply does not cut the cake when we are in the midst of the darkest moments of life.
Another answer we might hear to life’s difficulties is God is trying to teach you a lesson. Or even put more boldly, you need to learn something from this. Job’s friends were good at this. You remember Job. He was stricken with almost every disaster a person could face – all in the matter of a few days. He lost all his possessions. His children were killed. He was covered with boils. His friends came to comfort him. Three of them. The first one to speak was Eliphaz. He said, “Should not your piety be your confidence and your blameless ways your hope?” (4:6) The implication is if he were good enough, this wouldn’t be happening to Job. Sometimes we think that the bad things in our life are a result of bad things in our heart. If we learn what bad thing caused this calamity, repent of it and change it, then the bad thing will go away. That simply is not true. If it were,