"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11
I love this verse, it's one of my favorites, and it gets me through all the troubled times much easier than if I didn't have this verse. It's such a great reminder that God is there, God knows exactly what you're going through, and we can have faith that we will get through to the other side of the struggle.
But last night, when this verse was shared in a message at church, I looked beyond this verse to the next one, and I was caught up in what the next verse had to say. Let's look at it.
"Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you." Jeremiah 29:12
There's a word there in that verse that means something truly special, and that is the word listen. It doesn't just say "and I will hear you", it says that "I will listen to you". That makes a huge difference, and makes it even more special, so to speak. To hear something just means that sound is received to your ear. You maybe understand what you're hearing, maybe not, but maybe you're not even focused, and you don't even really recognize what you're hearing. But to listen! To listen means to pay attention, and to hear something with thoughtful attention- to give consideration. It means a concentrated effort on the part of the listener to truly hear us and understand what we are saying. It's incredible to think that God would actually listen to me!
God listening goes so far beyond just hearing what I say! It means that when I pray for someone to be healed, that God will listen- He will give thoughtful attention to my request, and will follow through. Wow. I think of how my children listen. Sometimes they simply hear me ask them to clean up their mess. They know I've said to clean up, but they are focused on finishing up what they are doing first- they are slow to respond, and are not really listening. When I say to clean up a mess and they actually listen, the response is immediate. They take to action, immediately doing the task that I have set them to.
You know how there are those people who pray to God, and then it seems like their prayers are always answered? As I read these verses, it seems to me that those people are the people who have already been through the fire- they held to their faith and made it through, and now they have drawn so much closer to God because of it, and they have the ear of the Lord when their prayers and petitions are being made. These people have read and listened to the very next verse in Jeremiah 29:
"And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart." Jeremiah 29:13
When we search for God with all our heart, when we get to the point where we really realize that everything we do is for Him and His purposes and His glory, THEN we will truly find Him. And just like the prodigal son was welcomed wholeheartedly and showered with gifts by his father- despite the errors of his ways- God will show the same consideration to us. When we truly turn to Him with all our heart, it will be as if we've always been there. I think that too many of us are afraid of what we will find when we do decide to turn to Him with all our heart. Maybe we're afraid of a scolding or of being assigned a penance. But the fact is that God loves us so much, and that's really all He wants from us- our hearts and our souls. He wants us, and our whole heart.
Will you let Him have it?