For the Grads
This post is for Lauren, who requested I paint her favorite verse as a graduation gift, and for many other grads I know who look forward with hope to the future. Jeremiah 29:11 has long been a favorite verse of mine. Those of you who know me well, know that I say that about several Bible verses…but that’s because there are so many verses that are an encouragement in every-day life! However, if we’re not careful, Jeremiah 29:11 can become cliché. Its message is celebrated at exciting times like graduation, and hammered into us in difficult times when life is falling apart. We hear it so often that we begin to take it for granted, forgetting why God spoke it in the first place.
Dear graduates, I encourage you not to take this verse as a pep-talk. Don’t cling to it as a wishful thought for a bright future. When you need this verse, go back to the chapter surrounding it. Read it in context. It’s not a verse pointing to a brighter tomorrow, so much as it’s a verse about the God who holds tomorrow. If we’re always looking/seeking for the rainbow and “better days”, then we miss out on what’s right here in front of us. Jeremiah 29:4-7 says: “This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: ‘Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters…seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.’ ” What is God saying? He’s saying, “I’ve placed you in undesirable circumstances, and you must choose. Will you trust Me? Will you choose to live life, plant gardens, BE where I’ve placed you and thrive? Will you come to Me in prayer, on behalf of the enemies surrounding you?”
It’s essential that our eyes be fixed on our Heavenly Father. If we fixate on the circumstances around us, we’ll be discouraged and overwhelmed. If we fixate on the elusive “if only”s, then the peace we desire will always be one step further down the road. If only I were married…If only we had children…If only my kids were like other people’s kids…If only I had my dream job…If only I were retired and could travel. A wise friend once told me how she struggled with the “if only”s. As life continued to take unexpected turns, she began to learn that she’d never feel content unless she chose to look for joys in the here and now. With 3 kids ages 3, 2, 1; her oldest having been diagnosed with juvenile Diabetes at the same time that her husband was diagnosed with several food allergies…looking to God for hope, relying on Him for strength day and night, was a necessity. Her experience has helped me let go of my own “if only”s.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:11-13) Seek God with ALL your heart, graduates. He knows when you’re holding back and not truly desiring Him. Trust Him with your future. Trust Him with today.