As the new year came in and 2016 came to an end I found myself reflecting, as most people do. Looking back at what I had hoped 2016 would bring, and what had actually come my way…
I had hoped for a year of abundance, breakthroughs, and freedom. What really happened was far different than what I had hoped and worked for. God had a different idea for my 2016. In His sovereignty He knew that I needed to have some work done before I could step into the life that I had planned.
God knew that He needed to get into the garden of my heart and chop, pull, prune, and remove many areas of my life that were dead, dying, or just not producing the right kinds of fruit, or the best fruits. He needed to breathe His life, His purpose, and His glory into my dead and dying places. I desperately wanted rest, peace, and contentment… But God knew I needed some sandpaper, pruning shears, and storms to be weathered.
Like many who endure tough times, I questioned God. I didn’t understand. And, truth be told, I was upset and frustrated at the season I found myself in. Slowly, God revealed a necessary process that He needed to lead me through… Refinement.
“Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that continues to bear fruit, He [repeatedly] prunes, so that it will bear more fruit [even richer and finer fruit].” John 15:2 AMP
“See, I have refined you, though not as silver;
I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.” Isaiah 48:10 NIV
I know in my head that God’s plans are better than my plans. His timing is always better than my timing. But I didn’t consider this refinement process pure joy at all. Sorry James 1, I just couldn’t swing it.
The pruning was painful. The fire was uncomfortable. The trials were exhausting. I didn’t know how to find pure joy in the midst of all that hurt.
All these great plans that I had laid out for how 2016 should proceed, and I told God all about them with pride and excitement. So looking back I wondered why God ignored those great plans and suggestions that seemed so perfect to me when I made them.
Then God’s reminded me of His perfect sovereignty with this timeless verse.
He knows the plans that He has for me. His perfect plan that is for my best. And this verse led me to the most beautiful word that would become my theme for this year: Shalom.
Have you heard of shalom before? Maybe you have. Maybe you are like me, and you thought it meant something simple like peace. But it means oh so much more.
But lately I have been challenged to dig deeper. To really try to grasp things that I don’t understand completely. To dig deeper when I find myself skimming over verses that I’ve heard a thousand times and think that I can’t possibly find a new truth within those words. Or without letting it truly sink in and make roots in my heart. So I whipped out my phone and opened my Blue Letter Bible app and dug into this word that “just meant peace“.
As I studied this peace that God has planned for my life, shalom, I found that this peace was not simple or ordinary! God picked this beautiful word shalom because it is deep, rich, and inclusive. It represents the fullness and richness that God desires for each of our lives!
God’s Great Plans
The more I researched and studied shalom, the more I fell back in love with God’s ageless promise to Jeremiah. It was no longer in the “canned Christian response verse” category, it was back in my “breathes new life and deeply nourishes and refreshes my soul” category.
God has a plan for us. A plan for us to have shalom.
- It is a promise and plan for us to find peace in a world that is ever ready to fight.
- A promise for quiet in a noisy and distracting world.
- For contentment when the world constantly screams that you never have enough. You need this new bright shiny distraction. You need this new thing in your life to find true joy and happiness.
- Tranquility for our unsettled minds that are constantly barraged with worry, anxiety, and fear from all around.
- A promise for completeness, wholeness, and satisfaction.
- For friendship and connection in a world that seems to have forgotten the art of meaningful, present, face to face connection.
- Safety for our body and soundness for our mind.
- His plans are for our prosperity and success. For our welfare, health, and happiness. He wants us to have full lives. His plans are for what is best for us. God desires us to embrace shalom in our lives.
How will you embrace shalom today?