Pursue the well-being of the city I have deported you to. Pray to the Lord on its behalf,
for when it thrives, you will thrive.
Jeremiah 29:7 (CSB)
Not here. I didn’t want to be here. I wanted home. I wanted my friends and community back. I wanted to return to the way things were before people wrecked both our community and workplace. I wanted it to be the way it was before whole departments vanished, before the friends and coworkers my husband and I so dearly loved were forced to move away — before we too were forced to move away.
I sat on the couch and gazed out the window as portions of Psalm 137 floated around inside of me, “By the rivers of Babylon — there we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion . . . How can we sing the Lord’s song on foreign soil?” (Psalm 137:1, 4). I was a foreigner here, weeping — with no friends, no church, and no community when I needed them most.
Not only did I have to work to forgive those who had wrecked our community, I had to do it while wounded and left for dead. How does one escape such profound sadness and creeping bitterness? Slowly and painfully.
Little by little I forced my gaze off of myself and onto Jesus. I trained my eyes on Jeremiah 29:7: “Pursue the well-being of the city I have deported you to. Pray to the Lord on its behalf, for when it thrives, you will thrive.” I feebly clung to this verse, trusting I’d eventually move through my grief as I sought this city’s welfare.
Perhaps if it were up to you, you wouldn’t be where you are today. Maybe you feel unknown, alone, and out of context. I understand. Yet while you’re here, why not pray for friends to come along and ask the Lord how you can seek welfare for this place? Soon you’ll find your welfare is wrapped up in the welfare of the people who are right around you, right here.
This message was written by Marlena Graves and appears in A Moment to Breathe, a 365-day devotional from the (in)courage community.Leave a Comment
Michele Morin says
Coming to the 21st century jaded, we forget that love for a place is enough reason to get us moving in a direction. It’s enough motivation to push us out of our cynicism and into service. Thanks, Marlena, for taking us back into the history of those faithful psalm-writers who planted gardens and started families in a strange culture, simply on the strength of the prophetic word that when the land of exile thrives they would also thrive. What must have seemed like irrational optimism at the time has proven to be a solid strategy for fighting self-pity and stuck-ness.
Thank you, Michele. That is all I could cling to at the time. It was God’s word to me.
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
After my first couple major moves, I waited for the community to embrace me. I was the new one after all, right? I quickly learned, that it was MY job to reach out to embrace the community into which I had been transplanted. It was me who needed to extend a hand in friendship. I had to do the inviting (and being turned down as well). I wish that my vision had been more Biblical such as to pray for the welfare of the community I was graced to be able to join. I needed your post some 30 years ago 🙂 Never too late to pray for the welfare of the city in which we’ve been planted. After all, we are ALL exiles, wandering, until we reach our final home. Wonderful post!
Mary Hood says
I love your words. Thank you. I think often, if I see a problem, it is sometimes me. Not others. Sometimes I need to embrace in order to be embraced back.
Thank you for saying that. It’s hard to do when you are feeling alone, down, and out of context, but it was my aim. It helped me get my eyes off of myself though it very natural and good to grieve. I needed people and figured that I had to just be there and present to the place I was in now.
Beth Williams says
Thank you for an interesting & inspiring post. Most people think the Christian life is an easy one. They believe that if you pray hard, have faith & trust God that everything will work out. God never promised us a rose garden. He said in this world you will have trials, but take heart I have overcome the world. I had forgotten that the Israelites were exiles in other countries. They had to make the best of it & try to thrive there. They had nothing to go on but God’s word. Yet they made a living in those strange lands & prospered. We need to embrace this for all aspects of life: “pursue the well-being of the city I have deported you to. . . for when it thrives, you will thrive.” We should sometimes be willing to go first & pray for our cities & jobs. Thanks for bringing Jeremiah 29:7 to light.
Absolutely. You speak truth. Yes, we forget to pray for our cities and jobs. I think as we do, we’ll begin to see God at work and maybe figure out where we fit.
I was touched by the words to pray for where I’ve been placed. I yearn to move to another community where my grandchildren are. It’s about 200 miles away and I monthly try to drive those four hours to enjoy their presence. My prayers have been focused on that city, not on where I’m at. It suddenly dawned on me that the Lord has placed me here, and I need to embrace this community and encourage those around me. I have been so focused on the grandchildren, that I’ve lost sight of my immediate surroundings. Pray I would find peace and acceptance where I’m at. The Lord desires me to follow Him. Now I leave all the details to Him for any possible way to move to this area where my heart yearns. It’s not easy when my husband is not willing to get out of his comfort zone.
That is hard. But you have got it. God wants us all to be present to where we are. I think it is still okay to yearn for another place. Maybe God will take us there, but as you noted, we cannot ignore the people around us. We are to encourage them. I will pray for you.
Denise Pass says
Beautifully written. Sometimes when life’s curves balls take us far from what we’ve known, we have to learn to be content and trust God in our new normal. Thank you for this!
Yes! It takes a while to get there. And how community helps. That’s why it’s so hard. But the Lord eventually brought us to a spacious place.
This is such a good word to us (David, Samuel, Titus, and I) as we prepare to move back to America in two weeks. We know we will feel bereft of community and lonely, but you have reminded me that there is still work to do, even in that (head)space. I am so grateful for your insight tonight, Marlena, and even more grateful to know you. You, with your thoughtful, honest, forgiving heart, are a point of light in the darkness.