I started writing this article about a friend, her struggles through cancer, and the pain of an unfortunate and severe fall that landed her in a hospital, requiring months of rehabilitation. I also wanted to tell you in detail about the estranged relationship between her and her husband, and their adult daughter. A relationship so broken that both her daughter and their grandchildren are no longer in their lives.
I wanted to say all these things, not to point out each heartbreaking situation in painstaking detail, but to make a case for what we are sometimes allowed to endure. What I wanted to tell you about is my friend and her husband-how much they’ve dealt with over the years with seemingly no end in sight, and how that might be a truer picture of Jeremiah 29:11: "For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you, and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." To understand in a larger context, what it means to endure, and what that future hope of prosperity might truly be.
Most will twist the life out of this scripture. Whether we use it as some positive affirmation to guarantee personal success in our lives, or to quiet the struggling Christian who can't see the physical "blessing" that’s a-comin'. Whatever it is, we want to qualify our Christian lives by assuring ourselves or others of some great blessing or goodness that’s due us by God. It sounds nice and neat, but most lives don’t work out so perfectly.
You see, here is this woman, this dear friend of mine, whose faith may have wavered at times, but never disappeared, dealing with an immense amount of pain. Whether the pain was physical, which I can tell you was part of a long continued road of recovery, or mental and emotional, by being cut off by a child that she and her husband have never stopped and will never stop caring for and loving. Even since, a new grandchild was born, on my friend's birthday no less. Yet, there seems to be no reconciliation in sight and I know it's not for lack of trying. I imagine, knowing her as well as I do, this pain is intensely greater than all the physical ailments she's dealt with.
I say it's worse because I know this woman-this couple-and both of them have an immense amount of love stored up in them to give out. Are they perfect? No. Who is? But you will not find a more relaxed atmosphere in their presence. You'd find yourself going on for hours talking and laughing over a variety of things. They really are one of those couples that make you wonder, "Where did the time go?" Despite breaking up inside, she and husband press on in their lives, love where they can, and care deeply for each other, as well as for other family and friends. They don't know if they’ll ever see their child or grandchildren again, but they know the plans God has for them.
Prosperity is NOT the thing we like to make it out to be. The Israelites would be in captivity for a long time, and inevitably, some of the faithful would not make it to the end. But, the final plan to break the chains of this worldly captivity? Those in faith have this. Those that died before the 70 years of captivity had ended would know what it means to truly prosper.
My dear friend and her husband know what it means to truly prosper. She knows what it means to have been given the gift of faith to know God, who by the work of Christ, holds fast to her and to her husband and will not let them go. She ALSO wants to prosper in this world like we all do. For her and her husband, that prosperity ultimately means restored relationships with those they love dearly. She has faith to hopefully see that one day as well. She also knows that God doesn’t always promise happy endings in this physical world. This is something we all know when, for example, we lose a loved one, which always feels too soon.
God's plan in Christ Jesus is to prosper you. In FACT, you have prospered-you are prospered-because you have Christ, and all his righteousness has been given to you. Despite our pains and struggles, despite our estranged relationships, you are loved right now to the very center of what makes you who you are, and you are loved right to the end.
My prayer for my friend, for her husband, and for all that read this that have been shaken to the core by life, is that more than anything we would lay hold and trust in that ultimate prosperity promised for eternity. In these weakest moments, this is what strengthens us for the journey. I also pray that by God's kindness, the truth and goodness of that prosperity might bleed through into our lives here and now, with healing for illnesses and pain, as well as in the hope of finally restored relationships.
As I end, I can’t help but make this request. If this article makes it to my friend's child or anyone in a similar situation, please, bring down your walls, call your parents, child, or friend. God is in the business of reconciliation and forgiveness. He has reconciled us to himself through a much wider divide of sin. He can do the same for you here.
This is not a command to obey for best results, or to procure some worldly blessing from God. It’s simply a plea to let grace reign in your life, in this moment and in this situation, and so that also by that same grace you might receive the blessing of being with those that love and care for you.
A theological misfit landing in the area of Lutheranism, Dominick has come to deeply appreciate the truth of scripture as defined by the distinction between Law and Gospel. He has found freedom in knowing that Christ is his substitute on even his worst days. He has been for the course of his church life everything from chair-stacker to men's ministry leader. He is blessed with a wonderful wife and two great young men, which he can say without a doubt, he doesn't deserve. He counts among his favorite things: Star Trek, classic superhero comics, movies, Yankees and yes, he admits to it, the Knicks. He enjoys a good conversation and good food. Finally, he is grateful for the opportunity to share the message of God's Grace among all these great teachers, pastors and theologians and hopes he doesn't mess up big time. But then again, that's what grace is for, right?