Maybe you're where I am. 

Maybe you're going through a season of loss, heartache, suffering, and horror.

Maybe you've fled some great destruction, and escaped by the skin of your teeth.

Maybe heaven has broken into your story, and all hell has broken loose. [1]

Your story will be very different from mine. But somehow, even in the midst of the differences, we may end up in the same emotional place.

This is a place of reframing, of re-understanding the things that have happened to us, of re-engaging with our hearts. 

Suffering can go one of two ways. It can either shrink us or grow us. It can cause us to wither or to flourish. 

The choices that we make in this place can result in pettiness and bitterness, or in beauty beyond anything we could ever have imagined. 

It can be a place of renewing our minds, or refusing to focus. We can sink into apathy or soar on the wings of eagles.

I believe the result comes down to courage. Do we have the courage to face our past? Do we have the courage to face ugly things about ourselves and repent of them when necessary? Do we have the courage to move from the place that we've always known into the place that God has prepared for us?

And courage, I've discovered, has its roots in our concept of who God is. If God is good, if God loves us, if God is powerful, then I can find the courage to step out in faith and trust Him. If God is weak, if God is questionable, if God is fickle, then my courage evaporates. 

Through this time, an old favourite verse has developed new meaning for me:

"For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11, emphasis mine)

I never really noticed those words in italics—"and not to harm you"—before. However, over the past year they have become so meaningful to me. Though people may try to harm us, we don't have to be afraid of God; we can have courage because God's plans for us are good.

Back in April, I attended a Salvation Army ladies' retreat with my sister, Julia. At the beginning of the retreat, we were asked to write our favourite verse on a paper heart, and pin it to a board with all of the other ladies' favourite verses. At the end of the retreat, we were told to choose a verse written by someone else from the board. I decided not to make a conscious choice. I allowed my eyes to blur, and picked a verse at random. Here is the heart that I took home:

I cried when I saw it.

These plans of God are so much more magnificent than we could ever imagine. Today, I would like to share with you with a song that I have only recently discovered, but has already been so meaningful to me. Perhaps you will find it helpful, too.

Lord Jesus, thank You that You are my future. You are my hope. You are the source of my strength and courage, and in You all things are possible. Amen.


[1] Mark Buchanan, The Rest of God (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2006), 212 of 644 in ebook.

(Source for first picture)