We all go through seasons of life, and sometimes we can point to a specific moment that marks a new period of life. Recently, I entered a new season. My father passed away, fairly abruptly, last year. Something fundamental in your world shifts when you lose a parent, regardless of what age you are.
When God suddenly leads you into a new season that isn’t pleasant and you weren’t expecting, you probably catch yourself asking, “Why am I going through this? Why right now?” Or you might be somebody who says, “All right, God. How long do I have to grit my teeth and bear it before I get out of this?”
One of the most commonly quoted verses when Christians go through tough seasons is “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11, ESV). People often read or declare this verse with the assumption that God is going to rescue us from our season of grief or loss or suffering. Sometimes he does. More often he doesn’t.
People often don’t know the context of that verse in Jeremiah. The prophet was writing to the exiles who had just witnessed their nation being sacked by Babylon. They fully expected God to rescue them and send them back home. Instead, Jeremiah heard this order from God for his people: “Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. …multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jeremiah 29:5-7).
What if suffering and discomfort play a part in God’s loving plan? Sometimes we struggle and get anxious as God gently directs us toward his good purposes. Trusting his sovereignty sounds all good and well until we have to reckon with the idea that pain may go hand-in-hand with his directions for our lives.
I wish I’d had more time with my Dad.
I have to sit with my loss; but I seek the welfare of the places where God sends me. I trust the sovereignty of God to work in and through my grief in this new season. Whatever season you’re in, I hope you do too.
John Bailey is the Vice President of World Challenge Inc. and the Founding Pastor of The Springs Church in Jacksonville, Florida. John has been serving the Lord in pastoral ministry for 35 years, ministering the gospel in over 50 nations, particularly as a pastor and evangelist in Cork, Ireland.