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.
~ Jeremiah 29:11
Aside from John 3:16, Jeremiah 29:11 is perhaps the most quoted verses in our churches today. It is a verse that has given millions of Christians hope and encouragement in the midst of misfortune and disaster. It reminds us that despite our external circumstances God is still God, and God is good. But how are we to respond to this verse when the storm just doesn't seem to stop? When one's life is a seemingly perpetual disaster? This is a question that I asked myself about a month ago while working with a friend of mine named "Jay".
Jay has had a long history with us here at the Relief Bus. Jay is not an NYC local, but a Native American Indian from Minnesota. Unlike many who come to NYC with the hopes of advancing themselves and their careers, Jay comes here to escape. On a moment's notice, in the midst of a bout with depression, Jay will leave his home and his wife to come out east and wander the streets of New York drowning himself in alcohol. Over the past two years a couple of the missionaries here, myself included, have done our best to show Jay that there is another way. A little over a year and half ago Jay came to know the Lord. But like all of us he is on a journey. Not long after Jay received Christ some of us here at The Relief Bus pooled our personal resources together and bought him a bus ticket home to his wife. I wish I could say this was the end of the story.
Around ten months later I was at our mid-town outreach and there was my friend. Again he had gone back to what was familiar. I brought him into our office on the Bus and as he wept I knew that we had to do it again. We needed to send him home to his wife. So we did. Again I wish I could say that this was the end of the story.
Five months later as soon as I parked the Bus at our Wednesday outreach I walked off and saw Jay walking down the street. My initial internal reaction was NOT one of compassion and grace. For the next twenty minutes in anger I did my best to avoid him, but I knew at some point I had to say hello. There was nothing that could have prepared me for what was about to happen next. When I finally brought myself to say hello not surprisingly Jay had told me that for the past two weeks he had been sleeping at the Port Authority Bus Terminal and consuming exuberant amounts of alcohol. He then told me that 6 weeks prior his wife had been diagnosed with cancer and two weeks later she died. In that moment I realized that Jay officially had no home where we could send him back to, no family to take him back in, and in turn no hope. As he sat there on the side walk weeping I was overcome with a complete sense of bewilderment. I started asking myself how God could allow this to happen, especially after we had invested so much into him. I wondered where the promises of Jeremiah 29:11 had gone in Jay's life. I attempted to offer some hope, but it felt so empty coming from me. I no longer had any answers for Jay.
Later on that night I was sharing with a friend of mine what had happened. I told him how ridiculous I felt trying to assure Jay that it was all going to be okay even though I had very little faith in the situation. He then told me that the reason I felt ridiculous was because I was having trouble believing that God's promise's were true for myself. So of course how could I proclaim hope to another if I wasn't holding onto its truth. It hit me like a punch to the gut. He was right.
Faith is not believing with your head that God's promises will become a reality, faith is knowing with your whole being that God's promises are already a reality. Faith is proclaiming His truth in the midst of the world's false realities. It is our job as His servants to live in that truth even when we don't have a tangible answer. Although, even for myself, it is so much easier talking about this then living it, we must never stop fighting for it. The past few times that I have seen Jay I have done my best to proclaim this reality to him. Amazingly despite my initial lack of faith, Jay's faith has grown in the past three months more than it has in the past two years. Every time I see him now I see a peace in his eyes I had never seen before. Please pray for Jay as he continues to walk this journey of faith. And please continue to pray for myself as I walk the same journey. Grace and Peace to You All....