Cultivate life while in a wilderness exile?

Is such a thing even possible? 

Can one live and breathe with joy while in exile?

Dearest Reader, 

As we pilgrimage together through our wilderness, the dry and desolate rocky ground of exile, my goal for us here is to redefine the wilderness. There is exquisite beauty to be found while in exile; however, it’s not easy. And, frankly, we need one another so as not to feel alone and isolated.

If you are here, I expect you understand. You too, are searching for hope and joy.

In Jeremiah, chapter twenty-nine, the weeping prophet composes a letter to the exiles. By this time, Judah is in Babylon. They are now captives in exile. Taken from all they know, deported to a foreign land and stripped of familiarity.

Jeremiah, a true shepherd, wanted to enlighten and encourage his people. He knew the difficult time they would have adjusting to life in a pagan land.

Is it possible to cultivate life, a full life, while in exile? 

I ruminated over this question in the wee early morning hours. It’s a question I often revisit in The Wilderness Place. Circumstances change, but the rocky ground of exile remains.

Cultivate life while in a wilderness exile? Is such a thing even possible? Can one live and breathe with joy while in exile? Where is the hope in hopeless circumstances?

I believe we can find hope and joy in Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles.

These are the words of the message that Jeremiah the prophet sent:

Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: ‘Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce.Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 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.'” Jeremiah 29:4-7

The exiles had lost everything but their lives and the meager possessions they could carry to Babylon with them. They lost their freedom, their homes, and their livelihood. To find joy and hope feels unreachable.

How can they handle such a depressing situation? How can we?

There are three ways we can cultivate a life with hope and joy amid a wilderness exile:

  • Accept it by living as orderly and natural a life as possible. Establish new rhythms. “Build houses. Live in them. Plant gardens and eat their produce. Get married. Have children. Multiply. Pray for the welfare of the place where you find yourself.”
  • Be patient. Okay, I admit this is not my strong suit. My patience wears thin, and faith grows weary, moving forward day after day. Chronic Disease is chronic and tiresome. I’m tired, and frankly, I’m tired of feeling sick and tired.
  • Trust God. 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

In full disclosure, Jeremiah’s famous words from verse eleven once grated on my last nerve. Before I discovered the fullness of God’s promise in this passage, each time well-intended friends spouted these words to me, it felt like fingernails grating down a blackboard.

However, in the book of Ezra, we see hope fulfilled when Judah returns home. 

God’s promise of welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and hope become real. His promises come full circle as we watch Judah pack up, head home, and begin to rebuild their lives. It is a beautiful picture of redemption and restoration—a time of rebuilding.

It is an image I can stake my hope in and find joy as I traverse the rocky ground of exile in my wilderness.

Cultivate life while in a wilderness exile? Is such a thing even possible?

Can one live and breathe with joy while in exile? Where is the hope in hopeless circumstances?

We answer with a resounding yes by clinging to God’s promise:

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.”

God fulfills this promise to Judah, and He will accomplish the same for us today. The very words I once pondered with an edge of frustration is our lifeline today.

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.” 

Jeremiah 29:13-14

I want to leave you with the following questions.

Are you seeking God with your whole heart?

Do you know him well enough to trust His promises?

If not, can you change that today?

Share your thoughts in the comments below or send a private email to tlmashburn@yahoo.com.

Lastly, I am here to encourage you, equip you, and guide you as you redefine your wilderness.

Your Wilderness Guide,

 

* Catch up here.

*Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotes are in the English Standard Version from Bible.com

PS: My first book, Mornings In The Word, is available now. Order your copy today.

“There is no space to live well or love well, much less pursue the God who created us to be in fellowship with Him. We close the gap between what we need and what we want with more. Our spinning lives and broken hearts are empty while appearing full. We paste a smile on our face and tell anyone who asks we are okay while inside we are shattering a million different ways.” -Mornings In The Word