This place is not your country; not your true home. Your soul longs to return, never quite finding itself satisfied in the current state of affairs. It aches for wholeness, for freedom, for a rich sense of connectedness to God and others.
But you are living in exile.
I would venture a guess that God has you in this place for a greater purpose. To work out the parts of your character that need refining; to polish your nature until it shines like pure gold. To take you through the fire, burning away the desires, the inconsistencies, the lack of trust, until only a dependency on God’s spirit remains.
When we forget that we’re in exile, we can get complacent and settle in, adopting the customs and culture of our host city, completely forgetting that we’ve been displaced—uprooted and settled in a foreign land.
We build houses, work jobs, raise a family, go to church—none of which are bad things. Even in scripture, the prophet Jeremiah spoke to the people of Israel, who had been taken captive from their hometown into the pagan city of Babylon, and told them:
Build houses and live in them; also plant gardens and eat their fruit; take wives and have sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there, and do not decrease.
Verse 4 literally says that God removed them as captives into exile. God has his hand in it for a greater purpose. We wrestle with this idea, even flat out resist it, but this King of the Universe God always has a plan and a purpose even in the most difficult seasons of our lives.
But eventually we listen, we start to settle in. Sometimes out of trust; sometimes out of sheer exhaustion as we raise our hands, saying I give up. We continue about our lives and before we know it a decade or two have passed. We’ve established our careers or built businesses. Our families have grown. Our hair is starting to turn gray.
Now, unexpectedly, the challenge presents itself when it’s time to leave: we forget that our true home lies elsewhere. Before we know it, the roots we’ve grown become shackles, keeping us from our freedom.
We’re lulled into passivity, forgetting that being captive in exile is not our true place. That God longs to bring us back into His city—his place of abundance and promise. This tendency is so easy for us to fall into. I mean, look at the Israelites—they were in exile for 70 years!
Can you imagine that for a moment? Living in a place that isn’t your home for that long would be challenging for anyone. After a year, you start to accept your reality begrudgingly, after 10 years, you’ve got new routines and rhythms. After 20 years you’ve built a lifestyle, maybe adopted some of the practices of your neighbors. At 70 years, you’ve got adult children and dozens of grandchildren running around. You’re settled into retirement and have likely abandoned the idea that you will ever see your true home again.
But don’t forget—you’re living in exile.
The same God who brought you into this temporary place to refine you and teach you, doesn’t plan to leave you there. So don’t get too comfy.
Don’t forget to keep trusting him and seeking Him. Don’t abandon the word that He spoke to your heart long ago. Don’t get so settled, that when the time comes to pack your bags, you would rather stay in exile than travel to the land he promised and purposed for you while you were still in your mother's womb.
You may be familiar with Jeremiah 29:11, a verse often quoted by well meaning people who are going through a difficult time. But if we zoom out a few verses, you’ll get the bigger picture.
For thus says Adonai: “After 70 years for Babylon are complete, I will visit you, and fulfill My good word toward you—to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans that I have in mind for you,” declares Adonai, “plans for shalom and not calamity—to give you a future and a hope. “Then you will call on Me, and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me, when you will search for Me with all your heart. Then I will be found by you,” says Adonai, “and I will return you from exile, and gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,” says Adonai, “and I will bring you back to the place from which I removed you as captives into exile.” —Jeremiah 29:10-14
Like Jeremiah prophesied to the Israelites, you may be living in exile. You may be frustrated and overwhelmed with things seemingly not going right. You might have forgotten that vision God put in your heart years ago. You might have grown complacent in your daily live, neglecting to listen to the Father's voice, forgetting to seek Him.
It’s time to make your way to the hidden places of your heart, dust off that old photo of your true home, and remember. It’s time repent and to search for him with all of your heart. To be content with where he has you in this season and to actively listen to what his spirit is leading you to do.
And when the time comes that God opens the door for you to move—don’t be so set in your ways that you forget the promise God has spoken long ago.
You are living in exile—but soon you will be returning to the promised land.
September 21, 2022