Sunday, April 11, 2010


Jeremiah, the prophet, was given a series of difficult messages to give to his people. At first they were a warning to the people of Judah to repent, because God had terrible plans for them, including conquest by Babylon. The people refused to turn from their sin, and eventually his message became one that seems completely contrary to common sense: surrender.

Build houses and make yourselves at home. Put in gardens and eat what grows in that country. Marry and have children. Encourage your children to marry and have children so that you'll thrive in that country and not waste away. Make yourselves at home there and work for the country's welfare. Pray for Babylon's well-being. If things go well for Babylon, things will go well for you. Yes. Believe it or not, this is the Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies, Israel's God. Jeremiah 29:5-8

I can't blame the Israelites for not listening to this message, because when I am under attack, I want to fight back. I want to stand firm and strong in the midst of adversity, refusing to buckle under. Isn't that the way we all want to be seen? And God's command wasn't just surrender; it was to prosper in the midst of the exile. He wanted them to do more than make the best of a bad situation. They were also to pray for their captors.

God was serious about this command. Zedekiah, king of Judah, chose to fight despite repeated warnings, and when he was finally captured, he was forced to watch the slaying of all of his sons before he was blinded and then led to Babylon.

For those who fought, the verdict was famine, violent death by war, or the loss of all they loved, and if they managed to survive, they were led into captivity. Those who listened to God's command survived and thrived in their new homes. It didn't matter if you surrendered or fought: you were going into captivity!

When I first was hit with rheumatoid arthritis, I fought it with everything in me. I tried every crazy "cure" I heard about, and I tried to continue living life on my terms. But I didn't get better, and the fight made the pain even worse. I pushed my body far beyond what it could handle and paid the price every time. It also took a toll on my family, because I was angry and resentful all the time. It was a dark time in my life as I slipped into depression. I couldn't see a life worth living when every day was lived in constant pain.

While I was in the deepest valley of pain and depression, I found the same Bible verses wherever I turned.

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:8-9

Reading and hearing these verses brought a very clear message to me from God: I was not going to get better. This pain and illness would be with me throughout the rest of my life.

I continued to struggle with this message, as it left me completely hopeless, until I found this verse: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

I came to understand that while my pain was always going to be with me, God was going to do something good with it. I just needed to trust in Him, to joyfully surrender and then prosper in this new land.

Sometimes it's difficult to see God's hand working in our lives, especially when we're facing a season of despair. It's vital that we discern whether it's time to surrender or to fight. I still don't have it all figured out. Some days I revert to battle mode and push myself beyond my capabilities, pretending that I'm not ill, and when I do, my entire family pays the price. Most days however, I am growing a garden in my exile. I challenge you to do the same.

Burn by Ted Dekker and Erin Healy is another thought-provoking book by the pair who wrote Kiss. Janeal Mikkado has never quite fit in. Growing up in the Gypsy camp, she always hated the scams they pulled and has been tempted by the world outside the kumpania. The life of the kumpania is in her hands when an enemy of her father's, Salvador Sanso, both threatens and tempts her. Her best friends Robert and Katie don't understand her struggle, but they all have to face the consequences of her choices. Years later they are all still living with those consequences, but now that Sanso has reappeared. I had a difficult time liking any of the characters and was frustrated by Janeal/Jane's actions, but when a major plot twist was revealed, it turned the entire story around. Dekker and Healy have created a fascinating story full of possibility while also addressing the darker corners of the heart.

Thank you to Phenix Publicity for providing me with a copy of this book for review.