We invite you to take a peek inside our weekly Light for the Way devotional series provided for staff.
By Pastor Chris Wheatley, PHS Senior Director of Pastoral Care Services
In 587 BCE, the Kingdom of Judah was conquered by the Babylonians, and a quarter of its population put into exile. One in four Judeans suddenly found themselves captive in a strange land, starting life over again with nothing in the midst of their enemies.
Which is a hard enough situation, but some of them found a way to make it worse. Some of the elders among them announced that this meant that they had been abandoned by God, that this new circumstance was outside of the Lord’s purpose or power. That if they remained in Babylon, they would be forever lost. Spurred on by those who should have known better, some Judeans planned to try to escape into the desert, raise a futile rebellion or simply give up trying to survive entirely.
To these lost sheep in exile, the prophet Jeremiah sent a letter, preserved in the 29th chapter of the book that bears his name. He told them, in some of the best advice you’ll ever read, to build houses, plant gardens and have babies. Or to put it another way, that in the midst of uncertainty and tribulation, to plan for the future.
Why? Because God is with you, wherever you are, and that means that there is more to come. The Lord is in control when everything feels out of control. Our Father will find a way for us to be blessed no matter what the future brings.
Leading to the famous passage in 29:11, “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.” Or in Hebrew, even more stark. Not for ra, evil, but for your shalom, your peace, your wholeness.
This is also the verse that our board of directors has chosen to guide their search for our new CEO, to remind us that this, too, is within God’s control and care. And while it admittedly isn’t as severe as being exiled for the rest of your life, losing the leader you have trusted in ministry for decades can make you feel a little lost.
So hear again the words of Jeremiah, “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. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (29:11-13).
Rev. Chris Wheatley serves PHS as Senior Director of Pastoral Care Services. He is an ordained Lutheran pastor and has served in hospice, eldercare, hospital, HIV/AIDS and congregational settings. He and his wife Nicole are perpetually outnumbered by cats and Dobermans.
The Light for the Way series provides staff with an examination of a biblical reading to deepen our focus on scripture. Thank you for engaging with this series as we seek wisdom through prayer and reflection as a Christian Ministry.
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Introducing Light for the Way, a new devotional series