The Promise of His Plan: Learning to Hope

“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

– Jeremiah 29:11

If you read Jeremiah 29:11 in it’s full context, you’ll learn an interesting story. In Jeremiah 27, God told Jeremiah to make a yoke and fasten it on his neck with leather straps. Then He tells him to send a message calling the children of Israel to submit to the yoke of the King of Babylon. This was an uncomfortable demonstration for Jeremiah to make, and an uncomfortable message for him to deliver.

Later that year, a false prophet named Hananiah came and told the Israelites that God would remove the yoke from their necks. Hananiah told them that within two years God would bring back all of their treasures that were carried off to Babylon and would bring back the captives. His message was comforting to them, but it was simply not true. They were being comforted with a lie – something they would always be hoping for and never see come to pass.

Then in Jeremiah 29:11, God gives them a true promise. Jeremiah sends a letter to the people who had been exiled to Babylon, and in this letter he tells them, “Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for it’s welfare will determine your welfare” (v. 5-7).

He is telling them to get comfortable in an uncomfortable situation.

Sometimes God’s promise doesn’t come in the form of a hopeful breaking of the yoke. Sometimes the truth hurts. Sometimes God’s promise doesn’t mean your yoke will be lifted in two years. Sometimes God’s promise means the slavery continues, the captives remain, and the treasures are not returned. Sometimes God’s promise requires 70 years of endurance. It may not be easy to understand, and it may not be easy to accept, but one thing you can be sure of is that God’s promise is TRUE. The truth may be harsh and hard to hear, but the hope is REAL. God doesn’t comfort us with lies, He comforts us with truth.

Comforted by Truth

Numbers 23:19 says, God is not man, so He does not lie. He is not human, so He does not change His mind. Has He ever spoken and failed to act? Has He ever promised and not carried it through?”

In John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life…”

God doesn’t just speak truth, He is Truth.

In John 14:16-17, Jesus says the Holy Spirit is our Comforter, and He leads us into all truth. In verse 27, He says, “I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So, don’t be troubled or afraid.”

We have no reason to fear, no reason to doubt. What better to be comforted by than truth? Or better yet, who better to be comforted by than Truth?

So, when God says get comfortable, you can trust you’re going to be there for a while. When God says you’re going to be in slavery for another 70 years, then you’re going to be in slavery for another 70 years. But the beauty of it all is that God’s promise doesn’t end there.

Jeremiah 29:10-14 says,

“This is what the Lord says: You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days, when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you, says the Lord. I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and I will bring you home again to your own land.”

Comforted by Consistency

The changing seasons of life were not meant to leave us unchanged. They are meant to grow us, to strengthen us, and to transform us more into the image of Christ. But, as C.S. Lewis said, “Mere change is not growth.” He went on to say, “Growth is the synthesis of change and continuity, and where there is no continuity there is no growth.” In these changing seasons of life, we find continuity in the unchanging Word of God. We find our consistency in the God who’s love never fails and mercy never ends (Lamentations 3:22-23). He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow (Hebrews 13:8). He is our constant source of hope. Hebrews 6:17-19 says, “God bound Himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that He would never change His mind. So, God has given both His promise and His oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to Him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.”

We can learn form the past because God has been faithful before, and we can hope for the future because God will be faithful forevermore. But we need to learn to live in the present – because God is faithful now. He is the great I AM. He is a here-and-now kind of God. We need to live in the present moment and enjoy His presence with us. Everything in the past has led us to where we are now, and where we are now will lead us where He has prepared for us to go next. The situation may not be comfortable now, but we can find our comfort in Him. The season may be changing, but we can find our consistency in Him.

We can learn to embrace the uncomfortable – because we discover strengths we never knew we had when we reach beyond the borders of our comfort zones.

We can learn to embrace change – because the greatest transformations occur through the most difficult trials and transitions.

We can learn to find contentment in the chaos when we put our hope and trust in God.

We need to follow the advice God gave in Jeremiah 29. We need to submit to the yoke of slavery. We need to settle down and get comfortable where we are now, because God has us here for a reason. We may not be where we want to be, but we are where we need to be. God always has our best interest at heart. Matthew 11:28-30 says, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Submitting to the will of God may be uncomfortable at first, but that is only because it’s unfamiliar to us. The Holy Spirit is our Comforter, so in Him we find all the comfort we will ever need. That’s why God told the Israelites to build homes, plant gardens, and start families. He wanted them to be comfortable. He wanted them to be blessed. God is in control, and in His sovereignty, He will lead us where we need to be. But we also have free-will, and in our freedom, we determine how things unfold once we get there. If we choose to dwell in the past and look back with longing for how things used to be, then we will always be miserable. Likewise, if we choose to be comforted with lies, then we will find ourselves watching and waiting for an immediate deliverance that will leave us disappointed time and time again.

Rejoicing in Time to Come

Ecclesiastes 3:10-13 says,

“I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. Yet, God has made everything beautiful for it’s own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. So, I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God.”

God makes all things beautiful in time. He is working all things together for good, and we will rejoice in time to come, but for now we need to enjoy the moment we’ve been given. We serve a God who is big enough, and good enough, to make the uncomfortable comfortable. When you pray, He will listen. When you seek, He will be found. And, in time, He will fulfill all that He has promised.

Trust in His plan.

Trust in His promise.

In the Proverbs 31 description of a virtuous woman, verse 25 says, “Strength and honor are her clothing, and she shall rejoice in time to come” (KJV). Other translations say, “…and she laughs without fear of the future.” She can laugh without fear of the future because she is confident that God is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do. She is confident because her hope is steadfast and sure.

An Anchor for the Soul

Hebrews 6:19 says, “…Therefore, we who have fled to Him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.”

In early Christian history, when Christians were largely persecuted for their faith, they were often forced to use metaphorical symbols to signify their beliefs. During this time, the epitaphs of many early Christians were engraved with the symbol of an anchor. Why an anchor? In the Greek language, the word anchor is “ankura” and the Greek phrase “en kurio” means “In the Lord” so the symbol was used to signify that those who had passed away now rested “in the Lord.”

Anchors are often made in the shape of a cross, and we have hope because of the cross. We are held secure because of the cross. We can rest in peace because of the cross. We have a hope that anchors our souls, because of the cross. Galatians 2:20 says, “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless, I live.” And Romans 8:24 says, “For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope.” You can’t hope for something that you can see with your eyes and hold with your hands. That’s not hope – that’s knowledge. That’s assurance.

I’ve heard it said that the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Faith is not knowing. Faith is not seeing – and yet still believing. And yet, still holding on to hope. We can have moments of doubt, but still hold on to hope. We can have moments of fear, but still hold on to hope. We wouldn’t need hope for the future if we could see the future, because we would already know the future. A boat that is anchored down doesn’t not move. It may still sway with the wind and waves, but it always comes back to that central point where it s held secure. Where we come back to – that’s where our hope is.

The purpose an anchor is designed to fulfill is to secure the ship, especially in the midst of a storm, or to control a ship that is drifting. The earliest anchors were made of solid rock. Christ is our solid rock. He holds us steady, and keeps us secure. Another time we see a play on words in scripture is Matthew 16:17-20 when Jesus tells Peter, “You are Peter (Petros) and on this rock (Petra) I will build my church.” This is the same Peter who just chapters earlier in Matthew 14:22-33 had stepped out on the water to walk to Jesus and then started to sink when he saw the wind and waves. This is the same Peter who said he would go to prison or even die for Jesus, and then denied even knowing him three times that very same night (Luke 22:31-34). That is the kind of rock, the kind of faith, that our church is built on. The church, the collective body of Christians, is flawed and imperfect. This gives me hope, because I, too, am flawed and imperfect. We are all drifting vessels, but we have a solid foundation, a solid anchor to come back to. How many times throughout scripture does Jesus say, “O ye of little faith….”? But I love what Jesus says when he predicts Peter’s denial. He says, “I have pleaded in prayer for you, that your faith should not fail. So, when your have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers” (v. 31). That’s what hope looks like – not just the hope we have in Christ, but the hope Christ has in us. The hope we have as Christians is that Jesus doesn’t give up on us. He gives us second changes. He gives us new beginnings, and new opportunities to turn back to Him. When we fall, we can get back up again, because we have a loving Father ready to welcome us back in with open arms. Peter’s repentance came in John 21 when Jesus appeared with him on a beach after the resurrection. Three times Jesus asked him, “Do you love me?” to which Peter responded, “You know that I do” and Jesus say, “Feed my sheep.”

Do you love me?

Feed my sheep.

Have you repented?

Strengthen your brothers.

In that moment, at the last supper, when Jesus predicted Peter’s denial, Peter had no idea what those words meant. He couldn’t have imagined it. But afterwards, looking back – in that time between the denial and the repentance – I’m sure those words gave Peter hope. Even when our faith is weak, we can still hold on to hope.

When Peter was walking on the water and took his eyes off Jesus and started to sink, Jesus immediately reached down and lifted him back up. When Peter denied Jesus three times, Jesus gave Him three opportunities to repent and turn back towards his purpose. We are never out of reach. We are never too far gone. We are never outside the grasp of God’s grace.

An Expected End

The King James Version of Jeremiah 29:11 in it’s entirety says, “For I know the thoughts I think toward you, saith the Lord. Thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” The “expected end” is what translates as “hope and future” in other versions. God’s promise is to be expected. We can rest in the assurance that what He has promised will come to pass. To expect from God is to hope in God. Psalm 62:5 (NIV) says, “Yes, my soul, finds rest in God; my hope comes from Him.” But that’s just it… we must remember that our hope and expectation comes from God. No one else.

I heard a quote once that said, “Expectation is the root of all heartache” and my immediate response upon hearing this was to agree. We expect things to turn out a certain way, and they never do. We expect people to act a certain way, and they never do. Expectations always tend to end up letting us down and leave us feeling disappointed. There’s another quote that says, “What messes us up the most in life, is the picture in our head of how it’s supposed to be.” It’s so true. But the more I reflected on this idea of expectation being the root of all heartache, the more I realized, it’s not our expectations that lead to heartache – it’s who we’re expecting them from.

If we put our expectation in man, we will almost always end up heartbroken and disappointed. Mankind is flawed. We are sinful people. We can strive to live up to the expectations people set for us, but we will almost always fall short. We can make promises, and we can genuinely desire to change our ways and live up to the promises we make – but we are imperfect people. We will let ourselves down at times, and we will let those we love down at other times. Expectation will lead to heartache if we expect our plans of a “hope and a future” to come from anyone other than Jesus Christ. When we put our hope and trust in the Lord, and in the promises He has made for us, then we will never be heartbroken or disappointed. God cannot and will not fail us. God is love (1 John 4:8) and Love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8). Jesus is Truth (John 14:6) and He cannot lie to us. We have seen God’s goodness at work in our lives. We have heard His Word proclaimed, and we have felt the power of His presence. We know He is Love and cannot fail us, therefore we can trust Him. Ephesians 3:20 (KJV) assures us that He is able to exceeding abundantly above all we could ever ask or think. God has promised to prosper us, and not to harm us. He has promised to give us a hope and a future. We can rest assured that His promise will come to pass. He has been faithful before, and He will be faithful forevermore. In the changing seasons of our lives, we need to learn to patiently wait and eagerly anticipate the fulfillment of God’s promises. In the seasons of waiting, we need to learn to hold firmly to the hope that anchors our souls. Our hope comes only from God. Our expectation is only in Him.

The Power of our Thoughts

It’s hard to hold on to hope in a wilderness season that seems to never end. It’s hard to hold on to hope in a waiting season that’s promise seems like it may never come to pass. It’s hard to hold on to hope when everything around us is telling us to give up, to give in, to surrender, and to cripple under the weight of doubt, fear, and insecurity. I heard a message from Steven Furtick once where he said, “Hope is not a feeling, it’s a focus.” We won’t always feel hopeful, but we can focus our thoughts on hopeful things.

I never realized the power of our thoughts until one year when my church took part in a “fast from negative thinking.” This fast was based on the idea that change takes place from the inside out. It was based on the idea that we change the way we feel and the way we act when we change the way we think. Proverbs 23:7 tells us that as a man thinks, so he is. That is why I find the King James Version of Jeremiah 29:11 so interesting. It says, “For I know the thoughts I think toward you” rather than “For I know the plans I have for you.” In the same way our thoughts determine our actions, so God’s thoughts determine HIs actions – but God’s thoughts are not our thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV) says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” God’s ways are higher than anything we could ever ask, think, or imagine. What we think is best is not always what God knows is best. God is our creator. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows what we need, and when we need it. He knows what it will take to make us who He needs us to be, and what it will take to get us where He needs us to go. Proverbs 16:9 (NLT) says, “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps. Our thoughts and plans are sinful and self-centered at worst, and short-sighted at best. We will never be able to fully understand the vastness and depth of the thoughts God thinks towards us, not on this side of eternity anyway, but we can try.

I find it interesting that thoughts and plans are used synonymously between the different translations in this verse – our thoughts become our actions. That’s why it’s so important for us to set our minds on things above. Satan desperately wants to control our minds. That’s why he plants seeds of doubt, lies, and negativity. That’s why social media is such a powerful tool, because he uses it to influence our way of thinking. The algorithms are designed to keep our attention, to keep us distracted, to keep our mind off the things above. They are designed to predict our behavior, to know what we look at, what we’re drawn to, what captures and holds our attention, what keeps us distracted, and what keeps us divided.

The mind is a battlefield. It is is where Satan operates and does his greatest amount of damage. He tries to use our thoughts to defeat us and make us doubt the hope that awaits us when we surrender to God’s plan for us – but his best efforts fall short when we make the conscious decision to take our thoughts captive and set them on things above. The sinfulness of our flesh begins as a mindset, as a way of thinking. Satan does not have power over us, but when we listen to his lies and allow him to influence the way we think, then we are giving him control. When we give him control over our thoughts, then we are giving him power to steal our joy and rob us of what God has promised to us. We need to learn to take our thoughts captive and replace the lies of the enemy with the truth of God’s Word. When we do this, then we replace our fears and doubts with faith and trust. When we do this, we replace our insecurities and discouragement with hope and joy. We replace our anger and bitterness with peace and forgiveness. We cannot change our thought patterns nor break down mental strongholds by our own power, but only through the power of God’s Word and His Holy Spirit at work within us. When we begin to surrender our thoughts, and yield ourselves to the thoughts of God, then we will begin to see a change take place from the inside out.

“For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding ‘Yes!’ And through Christ our ‘Amen’ (which means ‘Yes’) ascends to God for his glory. It is God who enables us, along with you, to stand firm for Christ. He has commissioned us, and He has identified us as His own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first installment that guarantees everything He has promised to us.”

– 2 Corinthians 1:20-22

Changing Seasons

“But forget all that – it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”
– Isaiah 43:18-19

We are in the midst of a changing season – literally. Spring is in the air, We can see it, and we can feel it. The warmer weather is here, and the flowers are blossoming. There is brightness, color, and beauty all around us. And I must admit, I’m usually more of a colder weather person. I usually prefer the crispness of fall – the bonfires and falling leaves, the warm sweaters, and curling up under a cozy blanket on a chilly day – but this year I have a greater appreciation for Spring.

I usually love the freshly fallen snow of winter, but this year we didn’t get any snow where I live. Instead, we watched from afar as Texas was hit with an unexpected snowstorm that left so many without food, water, heat, and electricity. Homes were destroyed, businesses were destroyed, and lives were lost. This year, we saw how destructive something so beautiful can be. Sometimes it takes the bitter coldness of a long winter for us to appreciate what a beautiful gift it is to be able to transition into a new season, a warmer season, a more fruitful season.

2020 was the year none of us saw coming, the season none of us were prepared for. This time last year, we could never have expected what was coming next. This time last year, many of us were going about with our regular lives. We could never have imagined that within a few short days, our whole lives would be completely flipped upside down.

At the beginning of the stay-at-home orders, I remember seeing a post on Facebook that talked about the word quarantine and how it comes from the Latin word for “forty” which is such a symbolic number in Scripture. Forty is the number of days the flood lasted, the number of years the Israelite’s wandered in the wilderness, the number of days Moses stayed on Mt. Sinai, the number of days Jesus fasted in the wilderness. The number 40 represents change. It represents a time of preparation.

20 + 20 = 40. The year of quarantine. The year of change. The year of preparation.

I fully believe 2020 was a collective wilderness season. I fully believe God has been preparing us, now more than ever before, for His return. I believe, now more than ever before, that the Kingdom of God is at hand. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that 2020 was a census year in the United States, and Jesus was born during a census. Jesus was born to save us from the cyclical nature of our sins. God destroyed the earth once by flood because of the sinfulness of His people, and He promised to never do it again (Genesis 9:11). Scripture says the next time would be by fire (2 Peter 3:10-15). The year 2020 started out with wildfires in Australia, and ended with wildfires across the west coast of the United States. The end is near. The time is now. There is an urgency for us to live with boldness and intention in following the ways of Jesus.

The word for “destroy” in 2 Peter 3:10 means “to loosen one bound, to unbind, to release, to set free.” I’m not one to usual study Biblical prophecy, but I interpret this to mean that God has been withholding his judgement, and there will come a time when His judgement is “unloosed.”  God has been so very patient with us. That’s what seasons teach us – they teach us patience. There is a song from Hillsong called Seasons and the lyrics are, “Oh how nature acquaints us with the nature of patience. Like a seed in the soil, I’ve been buried to grow. For your promise is loyal from seed to sequoia… I can see the promise. I can see the future. You’re the God of seasons, and I’m just in the winter. If all I know of harvest is that it’s worth my patience, then if you’re not done working, God I’m not done waiting.”

The song goes on to talk about how God could have saved us in a second, but instead he sent a son. He sent a baby in a manger – a baby who had to learn and grow through the same seasons of life that we do. He had to depend on the very hands He created to carry and raise him. That’s humility. That’s patience. That’s love. He gives us time. He gives us grace. He withholds His judgement until the time is right (Ezekiel 20:21-26).

Early in 2020 I had started studying about sabbath and rest. I was listening to sermons that had been preached and reading books that had been written that I now believe were prophetic of the moment we were about to enter into. God commands us to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy (Exodus 20:8-11). The Sabbath is one day each week where we stop working and honor the day God rested. We rest, reflect, and prepare our hearts for the week ahead. But did you know that in Scripture, God also required a Sabbath for the land as well? Every seven years the land should also take a rest (Leviticus 25:4). I recently heard Pastor John Mark Comer of Bridgetown Church talk about “fallow seasons” which are defined as: “usually cultivated land that is allowed to lie idle during the growing season.” During this season, the land is tilled up, but nothing is sown. You plow the ground and break it up, but you don’t plant any seeds. Doesn’t it feel like that’s what we’ve been living through this past year? It feels like there’s been a lot of plowing and brokenness, but not a lot of growth or harvest. So what is the purpose of a fallow season? Fallow seasons are intended to give the land a break and allow for a time of rest. The purpose is for weeds to be destroyed and soil moisture to be conserved.

When the quarantine started and people were staying at home, no longer on the go and traveling, no longer commuting and polluting – rivers started cleaning up, vegetation started growing, and the air started becoming cleaner. That’s the power of stopping, resting, and practicing sabbath. Division in our country has been at an all-time high – but there have been hard conversations taking place about important topics where change is desperately needed. The church had to learn what it meant to be the church outside of the church doors. Families have been spending more time together. We’ve realized the importance of human connection. In a sense, distance has made our hearts grow fonder. Being indoors has given us a greater appreciation of the outdoors, and being constantly on our screens has made us more appreciative of face -to-face interaction. During this season, we have seen darkness and evil exposed, but we have also seen the goodness and creativity of humanity highlighted. There are lessons to be learned in every season we endure.

From the beginning of time, God has created the world to operate in a rhythm of seasons.

In Genesis 1:4 God spoke and said, “Let lights appear in the sky to separate the day from the night. Let them be signs to mark the seasons, days, and years.” Then in Genesis 8:22 Scripture says, “As long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night.” In Psalm 74:17, the Psalmist wrote, “You set the boundaries of the earth, and you made both summer and winter” and Psalm 104:19 says, “You made the moon to mark the seasons, and the sun knows when to set.”

There are many different ways to define the word “season” – It is most commonly defined as the four different divisions of the year: spring, summer, fall, and winter. This definition of a season is “marked by particular weather patterns and daylight hours, resulting from the earth’s changing position with regard to the sun” (Oxford Dictionary). In other contexts, the word “season” can be defined as adding more flavor or zest to your food. It can also be “to treat something (such as wood or a skillet) to prepare for use, to fit by experience” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).

In every definition, the common denominator is TIME.

Each season of the year lasts a certain amount of time. Each season has a beginning and an end, though there may be some overlap as they transition from one season to the next.

When we season our food, we have to let it sit and marinate and give it time to simmer. You season a cast iron pan by putting it to use – time and time again. Colossians 4:6 says, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Matthew 5:13 says, “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.”

A person who is “well-seasoned” has lived and put forth a lot of time and effort to gain the wisdom and experience they have.

If something is described as being “in-season” that means it is at just the right time to be picked, eaten, or hunted.

There is a time for ALL things.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 says:

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.”

There is a time for ALL things – and Romans 8:28 tells us all things work together for good. Spring brings new beauty, growth, and color – but it also brings those dreary April showers. Summer brings warmth and sunshine – but it also brings intense heat and severe thunderstorms. Fall brings coolness and color – but it also brings the “falling away” of the beautiful leaves. Winter brings rest and peace – but it also brings a bitter coldness and a sense of confinement.

What seasons have you gone through in your life?

Have you gone through pruning seasons where it feels like your life is being pruned back and what once was good is being cut away? It’s in these seasons where we may experience grief and loss, depression and anxiety, loneliness and addiction, pain and suffering.

Have you gone through fallow seasons where it feels like the ground is being tilled up but nothing is being planted, or maybe the seed has been planted, but nothing is coming to fruition? These may be the seasons of singleness, infertility, homelessness, or unemployment – seasons of waiting and hoping for a promise that has yet to come.

What about harvest seasons when God provided the answer to your prayers and fulfilled a long-awaited promise in your life? These are the seasons of fullness and joy, fruitfulness and blessing – but this season does not come without hard work, long days, discomfort, and growing pains.

What lessons did you learn in each of these seasons? How was your heart shaped more into the image of Jesus?

Because we know that Jesus endured seasons of change in His life too.

Jesus had a hidden season where He undoubtedly encountered many of the same struggles we do growing up, though his childhood and adolescent years remain largely hidden from scripture.

Jesus had a season of active ministry where he traveled with his close friends, eating bread and drinking wine, teaching to large crowds, performing miracles, and sleeping on boats. He celebrated at weddings, and grieved the loss of loved ones.

Jesus also had a season to die. He knew suffering. He knew pain. He knew betrayal. He knew heartache. He knew death.

“Change is the only constant in life” – Heraclitus

We are always in transition. We are always moving from one season to the next.

Think about the various seasons of life and how they transition into one another…

  • Labor and Delivery is the transition from the safety and security of the mother’s womb to life in the outside world.
  • Newborn to Toddler involves the transition from drinking milk to eating solid foods. During this season a baby transitions from sleeping in a bedside bassinet, to a crib, to a toddler bed. During this season, they transition from being carried, to learning to crawl and walk. During this season they transition from crying to talking, and from diaper changes to potty-training.
  • Toddler to Childhood involves the transition from home or daycare to school. This is the season where they learn to read and write. This is the season where they discover what hobbies they enjoy, and learn how to make friends.
  • Child to Teenager is a transition period with more responsibilities, and more independence. This is the season of learning to drive, getting that first job, and going on that first date.
  • Teenager to Adult is the transition from high school to going to college or starting a career. This season involves moving out on own, making your first major purchases, and learning to be financially independent.
  • Young Adult to Middle Aged is typically the transition into a season of marriage and family, homeownership, and a more established career.
  • Middle Aged to Senior Adult is typically the transition from work to retirement, from a busy home to an empty nest, and from an empty nest to becoming a grandparent and starting new traditions with a new generation.

Throughout these various seasons of life, we experience other transitions as well. Maybe we transition from singleness to marriage, or from marriage to divorce. Maybe we transition from perfect health, to chronic pain or sickness. Maybe we move to a new place, start a new career, or begin a new relationship. Maybe we lose friends, or make new friends. Maybe go to a new church, start a new hobby, or learn a new skill. Maybe we experience changes in our political views, religious views, or general worldviews. No matter what transition we go through – change is scary. Change is unpredictable, and we often feel unprepared and ill-equipped for what is coming next.

Why are we so resistant to change?

We resist change for one of two reasons: a lack of comfort, or a lack of control.

When we are used to things as they have always been, we find comfort in what is familiar and predictable to us. Change becomes an unwelcome and dangerous enemy who threatens what feels safe and secure to us – so we resist it and run from it, or fight against it.

Unfamiliar situations bring fear and anxiety, because we feel unprepared and unqualified to face them. We embrace the familiar because we feel a sense of control over the outcome. We feel more equipped the face the battles we’ve been through before. We feel more in control of the waters we’ve navigated before. We trust in our own understanding based on our own abilities and our own experiences. We’re afraid to let go – afraid to lose control, afraid of becoming uncomfortable.

But there is so much more to be discovered outside the borders of our comfort zones. There is so much more of the world to see when we can trust the pilot to fly the plane, or the captain to navigate the ship. Our vision is limited to what is here and now, but God sees the full picture from beginning to end, and He wants to take us on a journey that only He can see. We have to reach out and grab hold of His plan for us when all hope seems lost. We have to step out of the boat and onto the waters when all logic seams gone. We have to trust Him with each step we take, and believe that He will not lead us astray.

If we want to embrace change, we have to put forth the time and effort.

Proverbs 20:4 says, “Those too lazy to plow in the right season will have no food at the harvest” and Proverbs 10:5 says “A wise youth harvests in the summer, but one who sleeps during harvest is a disgrace.”

We have to embrace the process of change for the purpose of growth.

Galatians 6:9 says, “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”

We can’t give up. We must press on. We must endure.

So how do we endure through changing seasons?

We endure by abiding in Christ. We endure by putting down roots and establishing a strong and secure foundation on which to build our faith.

Psalm 1:1-3 says, “Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.”

Through every season, we can hold tight to the truth and promise that God’s love will always remain. His love will hold us secure. His love will be the foundation, the roots, that keep us planted firmly enough to endure the changing seasons.

There are lessons to be learned in every season.

We can curse 2020 and make all the jokes about the dumpster fire of a year that it was (I’m guilty!) – or we can rejoice that the world is waking up and change is happening. We can rejoice in this day that the Lord has made (Psalm 118:24). We can laugh without fear of the future (Proverbs 31:25) because we’ve fully trusted the future into God’s hands and know that He changes the times and seasons (Daniel 2:21). We can redeem the time and make the most of this opportunity we’ve been given (Ephesians 5:16). Wherever you are at in life right now, whatever season you are in – God can use you. God is using you. God has a purpose and He will bring you through this season. He will create something new. He will make rivers in the wasteland.

“Preach the word. Be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”

– 2 Timothy 4:2-5 (ESV)