In Jeremiah 24, we get a brief shot of Israelite history as the background to the vision of the figs.
Jeconiah, the king, was dethroned and taken away captive--seemingly defeated, doomed to humiliation and a horrible death at the hands of captors infamous for their cruelty. Zedekiah, on the other hand, was given his throne and allowed to glory in the kingdom and power allotted to him.
Have you ever felt like Jeconiah must have felt then?
In exile. With everything you rely and take comfort in, everything you're proud of, everything that gives you delight, stripped away from you. A bleak future staring you in the face. Humiliation. Insecurity. Fear.
Echoes of these feeling have swamped my heart before, even if my situation was far from being as extreme as Jeconiah's. Feeling that God has punished you, deserted you. Feeling that others are being blessed while you suffer miserable. Feeling bitter, inept, and forsaken. Feeling miserably alone and inadequate.
I struggled with all these feelings when my two sisters left within months of each other, after having lived our entire lives together, to study abroad, one for two years, another for four. I had grown up in their shadows--not always happily so, I have to admit, but nevertheless sheltered by them. We were close. It took me this experience to realize how much so. They had always been there to reassure me, scold me, guide me, do the big important grownup stuff while I looked safely on from the fringes, went tamely along with. All the insecurities in my life which I had never had to address rose up and overwhelmed me--inadequacies at reaching out to people; serving; relationships. I still remember how, at that time, I was struggling with feeling disconnected and isolated--the typical teenage woes, I know, but poignant at that time all the same. This new trial on top of that just seemed to make everything brim over.
Why did You put me here, Lord? I'm a miserable misfit.
Why did You make me the one who stays behind when I'm the one who could be best spared?
I get frustrated [reaching out to people]...at this point in life my people relations are in a terrible mess.
I'm so afraid of and burdened by the path ahead.
Looking back, I guess that petty as the whole thing seems, it was one of the greatest emotional crisis I had faced so far, and I can only thank God for bringing me through what could have easily spiraled into a deepening chasm of self-pity, bitterness, selfishness, and self-imposed alienation.
We have two choices when God strips away everything we have been relying on. We can rage, become embittered, pity ourselves, and pull away from others as we focus more and more on ourselves and our needs.
Or we can learn to trust that this pain is the means of a special lesson God lovingly prepared for us because He knows we need it. That we need to be humbler...that we need to stop relying on ourselves or on other things, and return to Him. That He means to ultimately bless us, difficult as it is to accept that now--just as He did, in Jeconiah's case.
What seemed like ultimate destruction and defeat was actually God's means of redemption and restoration. Their tribulation in their own eyes and eyes of the world, was ultimately going to be the means of salvation and blessings.
The ones who really should have been pitied were those who were secure, self-reliant, confident and proud in their power, nothing to jolt their complacency.
Those who were sent into exile, in humiliation, hopelessness and helplessness, were the ones God intended to save.
Miraculously, the exile itself--the very means of pain--was the very means of grace and goodness.
God's means of saving us aren't obvious most of the time.
I'm learning that, slowly and painfully.
It's a truth that teaches me to have greater expectations of God's power and wisdom, that gives hope and peace even amid trials.
'Like these good figs, so will I acknowledge those who are
carried away for their own good...for I will set my eyes on them for good...
...I will build them and not pull them down,
and I will plant them and not pull them up...
...I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the Lord...for they shall return to Me with their whole heart.'
Jeremiah 24: 5-7
a small voice
Ci thinks some of God's greatest blessings to mankind are
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