Hope when the path is uphill

You shall seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.
— Jeremiah 29:13

I'm beginning to wonder if Jeremiah 29:13 went down with Amelia Earhart. I don't see it much. I don't hear it taught, preached, or memorized. On the other hand, Jeremiah 29:11 is as popular as Santa Claus:

“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.”
— Jeremiah 29:11

Why does Jeremiah 29:11 find its way onto T-shirts, bedroom walls, and coffee mugs? Probably because it speaks to the gracious nature of God. But could it be -- just possibly -- because it subtly reinforces our desire for life on easy street?

  • Prosperity? Yeah, I'm down with that.
  • No harm coming my way? Love that idea.
  • Hopeful future (my future)?  Sure, bring it on!

Jeremiah 29:7 is also trending nicely.

But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
— Jereemiah 29:7 ESV

There is an army of church planters and pastors who have taken up the rally cry of Jeremiah 29:7. That's a good thing. One Westboro Baptist Church is enough. God, give us more emissaries of peace.

But Jeremiah 29:13 is a different story. It is the awkward friend, the out-of-date tie, the book collecting dust on the shelf:

You shall seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

Seeking and searching implies effort. Finding Jesus in the hurry and hustle is hard. Contending for the faith in the face of a tough week, a marital spat, or the College Football's National Championship game . . . come on! Who wants to put up with that?

We may not want to, but we must.

Reading the Scriptures and history we learn the way of Jesus is often uphill, over difficult terrain, and carried out under a cloudy sky. I suspect that is how Jeremiah himself felt. The man who delivered the promise of "prosperity, hope, and future" walked the road of potholes, hassles, and failure:

  • Jeremiah's parishioners beat him and imprisoned him (Jeremiah 37:15).
  • The political officials called for his hide (Jeremiah 38:4).
  • Enemies cast him into a muddy cistern (Jeremiah 38:6).
  • He walked to Babylon bound in chains with the other exiles (Jeremiah 40:1)
  • His ministry was a fountain of tears (Jeremiah 9:1)

So what gives? How come the one who preached "Don't worry be happy" sang, "Nobody knows the trouble I've seen"? For starters, God's Jeremiah 29:11 promise was, above all else, his prophetic word to his disobedient people wallowing in the land of Babylon.

God would not leave them there. Jeremiah 29:11 was God's billboard: Better days ahead!

But "better days" does not mean "every day" nor necessarily "this day." In fact, Jeremiah's audience would wait 70 years for that promise to become reality.

That kind of delay is okay for people of faith. Walking with God is never about the circumstances. It is always about keeping fixed on the one who sees us through the circumstances and who rains the sweet fragrance of peace over parched souls.

So we seek him . . . by praying, reading his word, remembering his promises, running to his family instead of away from them, and resting in his presence (He is there) no matter our peace or lack of it.

The Apostle John was Jeremiah's first-century colleague in the faith. John reminds us: Jesus is the vine. We are the branches. It is in remaining in Him (seeking him) that we "find him," produce fruit, and accomplish more than we ever dreamed.

So what are we to do with Jeremiah 29:11? Well, for starters don't throw away your coffee mug or paint over the verse. Just add verse 13 to it.

You shall seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.