The last year has been one of the most confusing, troubling, and heartbreaking years for many Christians in America, especially for younger believers. It has felt at times like every new day has brought its own dark wave of reasons to be discouraged or to despair. Ask yourself some of these questions:
Does your heart break over the racial tensions in our nation? Are you fearful about the threat of war? Do you grieve over the behavior of our president? Have you followed the devastation from the hurricanes or wildfires?
Have you lost a loved one in the last year? Is your family facing even larger trials in 2018? Are relatives more distant and estranged than ever before? Do your children seem even further away from the Lord?
Are you not where you thought you would be by now? Are you less content in your work, maybe even ready to quit? Have you stopped praying? Did you fall back into an old pattern of sin this year?
2017 has probably raised more questions and fears than most, leaving many of us asking over and over again, God, what are you doing?
As I processed the trials and sorrows of the last year, personally and across the United States, I reread what the Lord said to Jeremiah when he called him into ministry:
“See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant." (Jeremiah 1:10)
God sent Jeremiah to pluck up, break down, destroy, and overthrow. That kind of judgment and destruction makes up most of the book of Jeremiah (and the rest of the Prophets for that matter). But the commission to Jeremiah doesn’t end with destruction. He also says, “I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms. . tobuildand toplant.”
The same power with which God brought judgment against the brokenness of Israel is the power with which he promised to eventually rebuild what was broken. Again he says, “I will set my eyes on them for good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up, and not tear them down; I will plant them, and not pluck them up" (Jeremiah 24:6). One day, he wouldnot pluck them up,nottear them down anymore. He even says, “I willrejoicein doing them good" (Jeremiah 32:41). The Lord uses the same language even later in Jeremiah: “It shall come to pass that as I have watched over them to pluck up and break down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring harm, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, declares the Lord" (Jeremiah 31:28).
What will it look like for God to build and to plant? Just a few verses later, the Lord says,
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. (Jeremiah 31:31-34).
God promised to rebuild what had been destroyed and to replant what had been plucked up. He proved himself to be a righteous, powerful, and just Judge. And he promised to prove himself to be an equally patient, compassionate, and merciful Redeemer — a Rebuilder. And the rebuild began when he sent his Son.
When God promised to build us up — to give us a new heart and a new covenant — he was promising to tear down his beloved Son.
Instead of plucking us up, like we deserved, he placed his own Son on the cross (John 3:16). Instead of breaking down our pitiful defenses and excuses, he sent his own Son to have his body broken in our place (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). Instead of destroying us, he crushed his own Son under his unbearable wrath (Isaiah 53:10). Instead of overthrowing our rebellion and tossing us into hell, he tossed his own Son to the wolves of evil where he was crucified (Acts 2:23).
God the Son was plucked up, broken down, overthrown, and destroyed so that he could make us new. And now that Son “has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises” (Hebrews 8:6). In the new covenant, through Jesus Christ of Nazareth, God finally redeems, rebuilds, and replants.
If God can rebuild a relationship with us ripped apart by sin, and replant and revive souls like ours dead in sin, what new thing could he do in your life this year — in your family, in your workplace, in your neighborhood, in our nation, in you?
Ask God to rebuild what is broken in our nation— to reconcile deep and growing racial divisions, to bring peace to the international hostility, thwart the plans of evil rulers, and quiet the threats of war, to bring salvation and revival to our nation’s leaders, to draw near to those devastated by Hurricane Harvey or Maria or Irma, or by the fires in California.
Ask God to rebuild what is broken in your family— to comfort you and your loved ones after your loss, to strengthen you for overwhelming trials ahead (expected and unexpected), to bring harmony and healing to strained or estranged relationships, to finally save your son or daughter.
And ask God to rebuild what is still broken in you— to teach you the secret of contentment with which you can face any setback or disappointment, to give you wisdom and discernment, patience and joy in the work he has called you to, to meet you in prayer and the word every day in the new year, to once for all purify and refine away any sin that entangles you.
If you ask him, and trust him, “[You will be] like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7-8). You will be fearless, satisfied, and fruitful, even if 2018 brings more confusing, troubling, and heartbreaking days.