But Why?

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“For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 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. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. [Jeremiah 29:10-13]

But why? Humans are unique in our ability to ask this question. Especially if you find yourself in the presence of a toddler. No matter our age, we are plagued with this “why”. This year has brought about some difficult ones, too. Why are we wearing masks? Why can’t we see grandma? Why did God allow this germ to exist? Why? Why? Why?

The fundamental question behind the why is this: What is the purpose? We are creatures driven by purpose. The most important why that people ask is, “Why am I here?” What is my purpose in living? Especially in the face of suffering and hardship, this question can be deeply unsettling and troubling. Combine all the uncertainty, fear, anger, and rage of our world with the loss of many of those things that give us purpose, and we can be certain that many people are struggling with their purpose. 

Again, Jeremiah 29 directs the people that God sent into exile. These exiles had everything stripped away from them: property, family, careers. They had to resettle in a completely different area, their entire identity and purpose taken away overnight. You can imagine how many toddlers were asking their parents, “Mom, why are we leaving our home? Dad, why can’t we go back? Why do we have to go so far? Why would God allow this?” 

Little did they know God was using the exile to clarify their purpose as God’s people. Remember what God said to them in Exodus, almost a millennium prior? “I will make you a holy nation, a kingdom of priests!” God had intended his people to be his witnesses to the whole world. Through the exile, more people came to know God’s love- and after 70 years the exiles went back knowing God’s love in a whole new way.

“I know the plans I have for you, plans for a future and a hope.” Typically we hear this verse at graduations or confirmations- a hopeful verse for a person seeking a new path or journey. Understanding the original context, we see it is even more applicable to those who feel stuck, at a dead end, like life has no purpose anymore. Maybe this is the verse we need to cling to in 2020. God has a purpose for this. God has a plan through this. God has more in store. 

Let’s face it: Christians believe that God brought Jesus back from the dead, delivered him from the power of the grave. Death shall be no more! When we know that our God has power to bring life out of death, we know that God can bring purpose out of anything, even this year. 

Use this time to allow God to shape your perceptions, to prepare you for a new or enhanced purpose, to provide meaning into this period. Whatever you are struggling with, whatever your why is, know that God has plans through this. God has an eternal future for you, and hope for tomorrow.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, please help us to cling to your power and purpose. Put before us opportunities to serve others. Use this time to draw us closer to you and to your will. May your will be done on earth, and in my life, as it is in heaven. In your name we pray to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen!

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