I Can Count on God’s Goodness Even in Trial (Jeremiah 32:40)
I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. —Jeremiah 32:40
When our 6-year old daughter was diagnosed with cancer several years ago, my husband and I clung to this promise in Jeremiah 32 and others like it. If God promises that he will not turn away from doing good to us, then God MUST be working for our good somehow, even in cancer. There were times when it was hard to see what good could possibly come, but knowing this promise helped us to see God working.
This promise comes to God’s people at a historical time of great calamity too. The Babylonians have taken Israel into exile and are besieging Jerusalem on their way to do the same to Judah when Jeremiah delivers these comforting words from God. This covenant lasts forever. God will not turn from doing good to his people. And he will make sure that they will not turn from him. So despite the impending terror, God makes it clear that all of this is part of his plan and that it will ultimately be for their good. God will bring them back and things will be different because they will not break this covenant like the last one.
Hebrews 8:6-13 tells us that Jesus is the high priest of this new and better covenant promised in Jeremiah. To those who believe in him, Jesus promises salvation and an inner life transformed by the Holy Spirit in such a radical way that we are “born again” (John 3:3-8, Titus 3:5).
When trials come our way, we can choose to trust in God’s promise to work for our good. Or we can choose to trust in ourselves, shake our fist at God, trust in “positive thoughts”, or flounder at a loss for what or who to trust. How much better to trust in a God rich in mercy, full of love, able to save, who offers his grace freely to all who believe.
So what makes the faithful stay faithful in the mists of the fire? It is God himself making it so. God is the decisive enabler. He is facing us (“I will not turn away”). And when God promises that he will “put the fear of me into their hearts,” he is ensuring that we will not turn away from him. That’s quite a guarantee! But it also so flies in the face of our modern day free will autonomous thinking that we can almost not comprehend it.
Do you fear how you would bear up under certain trials? We often heard people say that they could never ‘handle’ what we were going through (a child sick with cancer). And before cancer, I remember wondering the same. But the reality is that God does what he says he will do – he will not turn away from doing good to us. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:11-13).
Questions for Reflection:
1. Do you harbor fear of trials ahead or do you trust God’s promises? 2. Are there things in your life that you value more than God? 3. During times of stress, do you turn first to God or to comforts of this world? 4. What practical steps can you take now that will help you to stay grounded in God when trials come?