Word of warning…this is going to be somewhat rambling and probably not well-proofed. Its about 1030pm on a Saturday night prior to a Sunday where I am preaching about sin. Yes, I should probably be in bed, but this question has been bouncing around in my head all day today and I know that it will continue to bounce around even if I do try to get to sleep right now. So, here goes.
When I think about the future, I cannot help but go to the same passage I referred to in my initial post on this book – from Jeremiah 29:11 – “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”
As I think about the future, I cannot help but think about it through the lens of those words. There are definitely things that happen in the world, in my life, in the lives of others that sometimes make me struggle with those words, especially where Jeremiah speaks of “plans for your welfare and not for harm.” I can think of lots of faithful people who have dealt with harmful circumstances in their lives and I wonder what the plan is in the midst of those circumstances and events.
Yet still, I do hold onto and have a faith in the future. I have a faith in the future because of two things. God. People.
How can I have a belief and a trust in God if I do not believe that there is some larger something at work here? If God is only for me to feel better about my life today or that God is some kind of divine self-help guru, then its not much toward the future. Having faith in God and faith in the future because of God does not mean that I never wrestle with some of the larger issues at work. It means that I go into the future holding tightly to the hand of God while still continually asking the question, “God, help me understand….” Jeremiah was prophecying to a group of people facing potentially the end of their lives and he offers them “For I know the plans…” I wonder how they reacted to his words. He has also spent time prior to this speaking to living for the present day – telling them to build homes in exile, to marry, to seek the welfare of the place where they were. To me, there are strong echoes in what Jesus says later about the lilies of the field – his words are not only about the present day, but also beyond. Jeremiah 29:7 concludes with these words, “for in its welfare you will find your welfare” as he is speaking of their exile. To paraphrase…maybe in the welfare of the present, we find the welfare for the future.
People – For as much as I have struggle with confidence in extra-ordinary people (politicians, public figures, sports starts, and so forth), I continue to have the greatest faith in ordinary people. Ordinary people who wake up in the morning, eat a bowl of cereal for breakfast, are late heading out the door, whose clothes aren’t pressed perfectly, who have to juggle about 15 different schedules, who arrive home late at night only to remember they have a commitment to serve at their church that evening, who work incredibly hard in that time away from home, and then return home in time to kiss a child goodnight or to make a phone call to a dear friend who needs to talk to someone. Ordinary people are why I have a faith in the future. I work with people everyday here at PCW and in Wyoming who are ordinary people doing extraordinary things. People who balance what feels like 1000 things in their lives, but yet find time to help a child with homework, to pick up trash that didn’t make it into the garbage can, who take a can home with them to recycle instead of leaving it to go in a landfill, who witness to their faith by deed and by word, and so on and so on.
As some of you know, I am wrapping up a pretty rough week tonight. The list is way too lengthy to go into. But as I am getting ready to head to bed (so I can wake up somewhat refreshed in time to preach tomorrow morning), I am reminded that through it all, I have encountered some pretty extraordinary ordinary people this week and many of them doing it in service of the God who I have centered my life upon. I am not going to name each of these people, but those of you whom I worked with this week, you know who you are. Some of those people are ones who will read this tonight and some will never come across these words. Some are people I’ll see tomorrow morning, some are people I might not see again. While not every issue is resolved from this past week, I do close this week out with a strong sense of faith in the future – in a future in service of a God I have come to know through the person of Jesus of Nazareth and in people who humble me in so many ways.