I was recently speaking with a friend who shared about their work with the youths. They had studied Revelation, and then one of the Psalms. I asked about the order, whether it was because Revelation made them fear, hence the comfort of the Psalms. And he answered, “They’re always fearful!” And I asked, “What do they have to fear? School?” We laughed. (I suppose we both remembered the days when school was our biggest fear.)
I thought about our conversation as I drove off, and realized that fear never goes away but only takes on different forms with age. So often, it comes in the form of hopes unfulfilled and goals which seem to be just ever so slightly out of our grasp. The compensatory mechanism we take to counteract fear is ‘control’. Or planning, which, I suppose, is a form of control.
And if I were to look back at the last 10-15 years of my life, the years of scholastic and other life pursuits, there has always been a cloud of fear over all my hopes. Fear from the correctness of my desire, fear of their timing, fear of their accomplishment, that dreadful fear on the day you realize some hopes are not to be fulfilled…
And dear friends, to our greatest dismay, uncertainty is here to stay. There are always crossroads. It does not end after school. But rather, you will be on paths where you have to decide on crossroads one after the other. And sometimes your decisions affect others, too. Those are often the hard ones. (And this, I suppose, was why we had laughed. It was a laugh at the self, a laugh of realization that the world is more troubled than we had imagined in our youth.)
My recent devotions have been in the Book of Jeremiah, where warnings of Israel’s coming captivity was given as a result of their sin. The way to peace seems so contrary — they were to go into captivity and live and settle there. And in the time set by the LORD, He would gather and them. Yet in all this, the LORD speaks comfort to them. I came to chapter 29 last night. And of course, there was the familiar verse 11. Yet it was the promise in verse 14 which spoke to me:
“10 For thus says the Lord: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. 11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive.”
— Jeremiah 29:10-14
Notes from Matthew Henry:
This shall be the performance of God’s promise to them (Jer. 29:10): I will perform my good word towards you. Let not the failing of those predictions which are delivered as from God lessen the reputation of those that really are from him. That which is indeed God’s word is a good word, and therefore it will be made good, and not one iota or tittle of it shall fall to the ground. Hath he said, and shall he not do it? This will make their return out of captivity very comfortable, that it will be the performance of God’s good word to them, the product of a gracious promise.
2. This shall be in pursuance of God’s purposes concerning them (Jer. 29:11): I know the thoughts that I think towards you. Known unto God are all his works, for known unto him are all his thoughts (Acts 15:18) and his works agree exactly with his thoughts; he does all according to the counsel of his will. We often do not know our own thoughts, nor know our own mind, but God is never at any uncertainty within himself. We are sometimes ready to fear that God’s designs concerning us are all against us; but he knows the contrary concerning his own people, that they are thoughts of good and not of evil; even that which seems evil is designed for good. His thoughts are all working towards the expected end, which he will give in due time. The end they expect will come, though perhaps not when they expect it. Let them have patience till the fruit is ripe, and then they shall have it. He will give them an end, and expectation, so it is in the original.
(1.) He will give them to see the end (the comfortable termination) of their trouble; though it last long, it shall not last always. The time to favour Zion, yea, the set time, will come. When things are at the worst they will begin to mend; and he will give them to see the glorious perfection of their deliverance; for, as for God, his work is perfect. He that in the beginning finished the heavens and the earth, and all the hosts of both, will finish all the blessings of both to his people. When he begins in ways of mercy he will make an end. God does nothing by halves.
(2.) He will give them to see the expectation, that endwhich they desire and hope for, and have been long waiting for. He will give them, not the expectations of their fears, nor the expectations of their fancies, but the expectations of their faith, the end which he has promised and which will turn for the best to them.
3. This shall be in answer to their prayers and supplications to God, Jer. 29:12-15.
(1.) God will stir them up to pray: Then shall you call upon me, and you shall go, and pray unto me. Note, When God is about to give his people the expected good he pours out a spirit of prayer, and it is a good sign that he is coming towards them in mercy. Then, when you see the expected end approaching, then you shall call upon me. Note, Promises are given, not to supersede, but to quicken and encourage prayer: and when deliverance is coming we must by prayer go forth to meet it. When Daniel understood that the 70 years were near expiring, then he set his face with more fervency than ever to seek the Lord, Dan. 9:2, 3.
(2.) He will then stir up himself to come and save them (Ps. 80:2): I will hearken unto you, and I will be found of you. God has said it, and we may depend upon it, Seek and you shall find. We have a general rule laid down (Jer. 29:13): You shall find me when you shall search for me with all your heart. In seeking God we must search for him, accomplish a diligent search, search for directions in seeking him and encouragements to our faith and hope. We must continue seeking, and take pains in seeking, as those that search; and this we must do with our heart (that is, in sincerity and uprightness), and with our whole heart (that is, with vigour and fervency, putting forth all that is within us in prayer), and those who thus seek God shall find him, and shall find him their bountiful rewarder, Heb. 11:6. He never said to such, Seek you me in vain.
I’ve been learning that the more I learn, the less I know, and the more uncertain things seem to be. There are many answers, most of them unsatisfying. I had asked a friend why that was. We were studying 1 Corinthians 3, and with v. 18, he tried to explain: There are mysteries that we may not know because it is not revealed to us. Our increase in knowledge should also reveal the infinite wisdom of God and the limitation of our own wisdom.
I understood that to mean that, in the search for human answers for the things of God, we recognize our own insufficiency in understanding and admit to God how little we know and how small our knowledge is, and to seek Him again for wisdom.
And for the first time in a long time, I felt that the unknown was not accompanied by fear. But rather, fear was slowly being replaced by a calm trust, that God would be God, and because I am His, all is well.