My pastor, Don Doe, preached a wonderfully relevant message last Sunday about the Israelites' time in exile. God allowed his people to be taken into exile in Babylon so that they could experience some course correction. God’s people needed to learn certain lessons that just weren’t going to get through in the comfort of where they were.
There are four lessons my pastor focused on that we can learn in exile that are tough to learn in carefree times. We are in the process of learning all these lessons:
■ Learn to let go. We cling so tightly to things, don’t we? Whether it is a prized possession or a dream, we have a hard time letting go. Sometimes we become so attached to our desires that we forget about seeking God’s desires for us. When we are in exile, we let our dreams go but God’s dreams for us continue. Sometimes we must go through a period of exile so God can redirect us from our desires for ourselves to His desires for us.
This is definitely not the life I dreamt about having. At this point in my life, I thought I would be financially secure and able to travel the world as I prepared to be an empty-nester. As it turns out, God’s plans for me are vastly different. Instead, I am reliant on God for my security and my travels are limited to the confines of my mind. As I let go of my dreams, I made room for God’s. I am able to focus on what God is trying to teach me and how I need to grow. Our purpose on earth is to be examples of Christ to the world. While no one human can personify Christ, each of us can display certain of his attributes. I look at this time as one of God developing in me traits of Christ for the world to see. When this period of exile is over, whether it ends or my life ends, I will be a better person because of the journey I have taken and hopefully have given the world a glimpse of the God I know.
■ Find God in new ways. Psalm 137:4 says, “How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?” In other words, how can I praise God when my husband has a terminal disease? When we are plucked out of the comforts we have known, it can be challenging to praise God. God has shown me sides of himself that I would not have known were it not for this struggle. For example, I am able to feel loved by God through the outpouring of kindness of His people and I can praise God for that comfort.
■ Love in exile. Jeremiah 29:7 “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.” This says to me “Seek the peace and prosperity that you can only know because you are living with ALS.” Some things we can only learn while in exile. Lessons are not easily learned in times of freedom but only in times of struggling and suffering are we truly teachable.
■ What looks like the end to us is never the end to God. “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.” Jeremiah 29:10 God’s plans for us never change even as our circumstances change. God has a reason for each of us to be here and that reason does not change. What looks like the end of my dreams is simply the beginning of God’s.
If you find yourself in a place of exile, I hope you will acknowledge that God’s plan for you is amazing even though it may not be in alignment with your plan for you! I am convinced that our family will do more for God’s kingdom through our journey with this disease than we could ever have hoped to achieve without it.