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Friday, December 5, 2014

I Don’t Want To Be Here

            “This is not good.”  That is what I thought as we sat there.  It was dark.  It was getting colder by the minute – winter in Chicago is like that.  We were in a bad spot both literally and figuratively as we sat in our little Ford Escort in the left emergency lane on a sweeping left turn.  

We were on the Dan Ryan Expressway on the Southside of Chicago with a broken timing belt, in the days before cell phones.  Traffic continued to zip by as Pam and I sat there in our semi-formal attire, wondering how in the heck we were going to get some help.  This was not according to our plan and we didn’t want to be there.
            Not according to plan.  I don’t want to be here.”  Have you ever had those words go through your mind?  No matter how carefully we try to control our lives, not matter how carefully we plan we can find ourselves in times and places not of our choosing.  Darkness is an apt image for these times.  Getting colder is an apt feeling for the experience.  It is in these times where it is common for us to ask the question, “God, where are you?”
            For the people of God in the Old Testament, one of the most transformative experiences was the Babylonian exile where up to 70,000 men, women and children were moved from Jerusalem to Babylon because they were a conquered people.  Jeremiah was one of the prophets God sent to speak truth to these people who found themselves “not according to plan” and not where they wanted to be.  Like us when we find ourselves in similar unwanted circumstances, their focus was on getting back to normal by getting out of this situation.  There is a better place, a better people and a better situation.  Get us out of here!  Can you relate?
            It is into this difficult circumstance Jeremiah speaks God’s words: 
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.” (Jeremiah 29:11, ESV)
            I can imagine those who first heard these words spoken to them were a bit confused.  If this was true, why wasn’t God doing something?  Why weren’t they being delivered?  Why weren’t they being returned to their homeland?  God, where are you?
            The thing the people of Jeremiah’s time had to learn is the same thing we have to learn:  Hope is not found in us getting out of our circumstances, hope is found when God shows up in our circumstances.  God told them and he tells us this powerful truth – Wherever you are, there I Am.  I am with you.

            One of the names of Jesus revealed in the Old Testament is Emmanuel.  The name means “God is with us.”  Jesus is our future and our hope and he is right were you are.  He is the light of hope we celebrate in Christmas.
            Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.  This is what God told Jeremiah to remind his people right after he told them he had hadn’t forgotten them, he knew what was happening and there is a future and hope.
            As Pam and I sat in the dark and cold, helpless and without options, we still had one option and that was to pray.  So we did.  Shortly after that a passing tow truck made his way over to us and towed our car back to our community an hour away.
            In that dark, cold place where you find yourself without options, there is always one option available and that is to pray.  Wherever you are, God is.  He wants you to know that.

Peace and grace,


Carol Masterson said...

Dave - thank you so much for sharing this. it really helped to brighten my day. i am not loving being in this "this can't be happening moment" of my life...
Best to you and your family...

David E Cooke said...

Carol - so sorry to hear you are in tough times. I have been in those times myself but have been amazed at God's faithfulness in the midst of the pain. I will be praying for you. Thank you for letting me know. Peace to you and your family.