I love puzzles. I love puzzle games, mind teasers, word puzzles, math puzzles, jig-saw puzzles…all kinds of puzzles. I love gathering all the pieces and clues that individually seem insignificant and putting them together to create something great. Sometimes during the process of completing a puzzle I get bored or distracted or too busy and I don't finish it. Sometimes I'll work on a jig-saw puzzle with the hopes of completing it over the weekend, but when Monday comes the puzzle is not finished. I may leave it out thinking I'll work on it during the week, but rarely do I find the time to finish it. So the puzzle sits there unfinished. When friends look at the puzzle, they can't tell what the end result is going to be. All they see are hundreds of tiny pieces in various colors, shapes and sizes. They may look at the table where I'm working and wonder how in the world all those tiny pieces are ever going to fit together to make up the beautiful picture on the box. Do you ever feel that way about your life? Do you ever wonder how your current or past situation fits into the picture of your life? Do you ever feel like your life is similar to an unfinished jigsaw puzzle…maybe your arm or your leg is missing, or someone hasn't found the piece with your left eye. I bet the Israelites felt like the puzzle of their lives was missing a few pieces as they spent 70 years exiled in Babylon. I'm sure they wondered how living in captivity for 70 years fit with the promise that they were God's chosen people. But God drew the picture on box of their lives, and He knew how all the pieces would fit together. This is where we meet up with the Israelites in Jeremiah 29.
10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. 11 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. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”
The Holy Bible: New International Version. electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, c1984, S. Je 29:10-14
These five verses are jam packed with some huge pieces of Israel's puzzle, so let's start sorting thru the pieces and see if we can fit them together and figure out what these verses have to do with us.
First, let's look at where the Israelites are: Babylon. Babylon was not a fun place; they had to learn a new language, a new culture, and a new life style. And they didn't go there by choice. Israel had some behavior problems, and God told them to either straighten up or they would be punished. They chose punishment over behaving properly. Can you relate? I know I can. Sometimes, I look back at the day, and just sit in awe at how poorly I acted and reacted in different situations. Israel had a difficult time obeying, and this disobedience landed them in captivity for 70 years.
But even in their captivity God tells them that He has a plan for them, plans to prosper them and to give them a HOPE and a FUTURE. (v11) He doesn't say, “You messed up, so I'm done with you.” He tells us that He loves us so much that He has a plan for each of us and that includes a hope and a prosperous future. This is what God is going to do.
Then God goes straight into what Israel’s response should be: call to Him, come to Him, and pray to Him. (v12) He concludes with this comforting statement, “and I will listen to you.” Then giving them an even clearer picture of His plan for them, He says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” I will be found by you and will bring you back from captivity.” In these few verses God is describing the picture that He will make with all these pieces of Israel's puzzle.
Can you relate to the Israelites? Are you at a place in life where emotionally and spiritually you feel like you're living in a foreign country and no one speaks your language? And you don't understand how this piece is going to fit in the puzzle of your life. Maybe you didn't end up in Babylon thru disobedience, maybe God just led you there because He knows all that you will learn there. We have to trust that even in the times that feel like captivity, God's word is true. God does know the plans that He has for us. But He doesn't say just sit around and moan while you're in captivity, and then when your time is up I'll come rescue you. He gives us some things to do while we are in captivity: CALL, PRAY & SEEK!
Aren't you glad that we have a God that can be called upon at anytime? We don't have to wait for His office to be open or wonder if it's too late to call. We won't wake Him up and interrupt His sleep if we call in the middle of the night or in the wee hours of the morning. He won't send us to voicemail. He will answer every time. So call Him, night and day, just call Him!!! In calling Him, He says we are to pray! Pray without ceasing…talk to Him AND listen to Him without ceasing. Have a conversation with Him that allows Him to speak to you as you speak to Him. I am currently learning that prayer is often more about listening that it is talking.
And, finally God tells Israel, and us, to seek Him. He doesn't say look for Him, like we might say “Look for me!” to a friend if we find out we are both going to the same event knowing that if we forget or don't find our friend nothing will be lost. No! God says to seek Him and seek Him with ALL YOUR HEART! Then and only then will He be found! He doesn't want a casual search, but the wholehearted search of a lost loved one! And He says that when we seek Him with all our hearts we will find Him, and He will bring us out of the captivity! He will restore us! Isn't that awesome!
It's no doubt that we will all face difficult trials in our lives. So what does God want us to do during these times of captivity? He wants us to call, pray and seek. I love that our God allows us to be interactive with Him. He wants us to communicate with Him. He doesn't sever our communication when we are in a tough spot. Our God is an awesome God! He not only knows the full picture of your life and how all the pieces will fit together, but He actually designed it before you were even born. (Psalm 139) He knows that some pieces in the puzzle of your life will have more black on them and will bring depth to the picture and other pieces will be bright colors and will bring life to picture. He perfectly designed your life so that all the pieces fit together to make you mature and complete in Christ! (James 1:2-4)
So where are you? What is happening in your life right now that leaves you calling out to God? Have you begun taking time to talk to Him and listen to His response? And how earnestly are you seeking the Lord?
I know these are tough questions, and I pray that as you answer them honestly the conversation between you and Your Maker will begin to flow, and that your whole-hearted search of Him will give you a glimpse of the hope and the future that He has for you!