“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'”
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
“You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.”
Isn’t our Lord so sweet and tender in the way He reveals truth to us? As I raise my hands in worship, fall on my knees before Him, or pray in my bed at night over worries and fears for tomorrow, God always reminds me of His might, His goodness, and His loyalty. A few nights ago, I was worshipping to Steffany Gretzinger’s “Out of Hiding” before bed, when the Holy Spirit gave me inspiration for this post. “Out of Hiding” is a plea from Jesus to drop our defenses and give into His love. The song is filled with love-soaked promises and declarations, and the line that sunk an arrow into my heart echoes throughout the bridge.
“Oh as you run, what hindered love will only become part of the story.”
When I heard that line, the Holy Spirit gave me an image of an elaborately intertwined vine growing up, over, and around a pale pink flower. He told me that the flower was me, was you, was him and her, and that His plan for our lives and His love for us are as entangled with our everyday lives as the vines and weeds of an untamed garden. A few summers ago at a youth conference, God used a series of events to show me how elaborate and intricate His plans for me are, and I firmly believe that His plan for you is no more or less than His plan for me. Every person you meet, every decision you make, every opinion that you allow to become a fact in your heart and mind are part of the glorious unfolding He wants to bring through your humble life. Psalm 139 declares that God knit every piece of you, that He personally selected every fiber and thread of your being to form the person you are today. Whether you like the yarns that form you or not, He has a purpose in each one. One version of Psalm 139:14 reads “the greatness of the way I was made brings fear.” That means your formation was so glorious, so grandiose, that the method would bring awe and wonder to man if we could understand it. You were placed on earth for a divine purpose, to bring attention to the Gospel and the God behind it in some way.
On a deeper level, past the basics of your formation, God has handwritten your story in a series of sagas and chronicles that will take a lifetime to peruse. God’s plans are to prosper you, to give you hope and a future with Him. Unfortunately we live in a sin-ridden world and have been given the free will to obey or not to obey God’s plan, so there’s a high chance that we may take some detours and wrong turns every now and then. The incredible aspect of our omniscient God is that He knows the route we’ll choose to take anyway, and His plan leaves plenty of opportunity for us to jump back on the straight and narrow path. Imagine a windy, lengthy road map filled with ample rest stops and scenic outlooks. The path God has for you may involve a steep uphill climb, or a leap of faith across some great gorge, but the end goal for every person is to fall into the arms of Jesus in eternity. This undeniable truth, that our ultimate purpose is to find communion with Christ, leads us back to the bridge of “Out of Hiding.” The uphill climb that seemed like a setback in your plan didn’t escape God’s notice. The struggle you’ve had your entire life, the thorn in your side you can’t pinch out, is an integral part of the story God has written for you. Am I saying that God purposefully puts tragedies and darkness in your life? No. What I mean to tell you is that there isn’t any chapter of your life too dark or twisted for God to illuminate. Your eating disorder, the abuse you experienced in childhood, the loneliness you feel engulfed by today, the financial anxieties you’re chained to, and the distorted image you see reflected in the mirror can all be used in your story for God’s glory.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about my struggle with forgiveness. The majority of the people I had to forgive were first graders, second graders, and third graders who abandoned me as a little girl, kids who picked on me for being uncoordinated, middle class, or just plain different from other girls. The reasons for their teasing are so insignificant as an adult, but the jabs and cuts they left on me formed scars that have shaped my self-image for the past twelve years. Instead of acknowledging my acceptance in the kingdom of heaven, I focused on the rejection that plagued me throughout childhood. I began reading obsessively to avoid social interaction, because if I didn’t talk to anyone, than no one could reject me. Later in adolescence, I became consumed with dating and romance because I believed that if someone fell in love with me, there would be one more person who would never reject me. Eventually, every aspect of my appearance and character was scrutinized to make sure I measured up to the person I believed everyone wanted me to be. My middle and high school years were exhausting, depressing, and so distant from God’s plan. Graduating high school was a relief, because I didn’t have to put up a facade against the same people I’d been faking it to for twelve years anymore. If only I’d realized that no one actually expected me to be the person I tried so hard to be.
Thankfully, I’ve experienced tremendous healing from my childhood pains, and now walking in the identity God created for me. The all-consuming insecurities and self-hatred I experienced as a preteen and teenager were painful and damaging, but they have given me immense patience for the teenagers I see weekly as a youth leader. My history with an eating disorder causes my heart to break for girls who struggle with body image even more than I did. I viewed myself in such an unhealthy light as a kid that my self-image kept me from giving and receiving Christ’s love. The very darkness that hindered love in my life has set a fire in my heart that enables me to cast a torch over similar struggles in other people’s lives. The bridge of “Out of Hiding” has a grip over me because of the hopefulness it gives to every struggle you’ll ever face.
“Oh as you run [towards God], what hindered [your acceptance of] love will only become part of the story [God has written for you].”
God’s story for each of us is infinitely more intricate than we could ever imagine. Every person we meet, every conversation we have, every opinion we form has a purpose in His inevitably beautiful plan for our lives. Regardless of what your life looks like now, when God wrote the final chapter of your story, He leaned back and said “it is good.”
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