This woman, Jennifer Rothschild, is one of my favourite people on the planet – one of the most empathetic, wisest, most down-to-earth humble women. At the young age of fifteen, Jennifer was diagnosed with a rare, degenerative eye disease that would eventually steal her sight. In the midst of living blind — literally living in an invisible world — Jennifer has taken her message of encouragement, across the country. What feels like exile to you? Is it…divorce, pandemic, death, illness? Well, for my friend Jennifer, blindness feels like exile. And she’s learned to take courage and be patient with the process of navigating the loss and longing. She will inspire you to do the same no matter what you face. It’s a grace to welcome Jennifer to the farm’s front porch today…
My hand was nestled in the crook of his elbow as we walked down to the beach.
To an on-looker, my almost eighty-year-old Daddy may have appeared small. But, to me, he was a giant. He was my example, my cheerleader, my hero.
And, when my world became dark with blindness as a fifteen-year-old girl, he was my rock. He stabilized everything that was shaken and helped me learn to walk—literally in the dark and by faith.
He was the one I felt safest with. His hand was always steady, his touch always gentle, and his pace always perfect for me.
But that day on the beach, I was the one trying to steady his wobbly frame as we traversed the warm sand. My dad had endured chronic pain for a long time, and his body was frail.
When my tiny giant of a father and I reached the shoreline, I asked how he handled the constant pain.
I will never forget his answer.
“Well, I’m patient with myself. Patient with others. And patient with God.”
It wasn’t long after that my dad closed his eyes here on earth and opened them in heaven. When he did, my whole world changed.
My brain knew what death was, but my heart was unaware that it was such a tearing and an emptying. Even after a few months, I felt like I was walking through fog. It just felt thick, and like life was in slow motion.
The grounding that came from my dad’s presence in my life was suddenly gone—and I felt insecure and lost without him.
My season of grief felt like exile.
You might feel like you’re in exile too.
We All Experience Exile
We all experience seasons of exile, in one form or another. Exile is anytime you feel removed from the familiar, disenfranchised from what made you feel secure, and banished from the stability you once felt.
In the Bible, the Jewish people experienced several exiles. In each one, they were removed from their land, taken to a foreign land, and stuck there with nothing but loss and longing.
And that’s how we feel when we’re in exile too.
Maybe you find yourself alone because the one you loved died or the one you married left. The kids you raised left home and rarely call. Or perhaps you’re single—or even in a marriage–and you feel overlooked and unseen. You’re living in a foreign land of isolation. Exile can be heartbreaking.
Or maybe you’ve moved to a new city and you don’t know anyone. You don’t have the friends anymore that you once had. You feel displaced and lonely. Exile can be hard.
Or, maybe, like my dad’s illness or even my blindness, your exile is physical. You’ve been diagnosed with a disease or developed a chronic illness, and you feel alone—like nobody can really understand or enter in. Maybe you’re battling anxiety or depression. As a result, you feel removed from the normal life you used to live and secluded from the joy you once had. Exile can really hurt.
All of us have experienced an exile of sorts called COVID-19, right? We’ve been stuck with our feet firmly planted in midair wondering when we can have our lives back?
Exiles may vary, but what they have in common is God’s presence. He is with you in your exile.
God Is with You
The prophet Jeremiah wrote the weary Jewish people a letter while they were still in exile.
In it, he reminds them that God promises He has good plans for them—“plans to prosper and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).
The same is true for you my friend, even if it doesn’t feel like it right now.
We often don’t understand why God allows exile.
But this you can be sure of… even in exile, God is giving you a hope and a future. He has plans for your welfare, even when it doesn’t feel well or fair. His plan isn’t for your calamity. God’s plans are to bless and prosper you, not to harm you.
Oh, my friend, hold on to this truth with the same love and trust that I held onto my Daddy with that day at the beach.
When you do, you can take courage even when the landscape of your life is dotted with the rubble of loss and longing. God is with you, and He will give you the strength to be patient with the process of exile.
You may be counting the minutes, waiting for your exile to end. But, instead of trying to hurry it up, participate with it and invest in it. Use it as a time to build, plant, grow and increase. That’s what God told the Jews to do in Jeremiah 29:4-7.
Exile feels like it has a long shelf life with no expiration date, and it’s hard to be patient. I know. I’ve been there too.
But, as my dad so wisely told me that day on the beach, be patient with yourself, be patient with others, and most importantly, be patient with God.
Your exile does have an ending.
Until it is over, though, you can hold on to the promise that God has a hope and a future for you no matter what. Your exile won’t last forever, but God’s faithfulness will.
So, take courage in your exile today. God is with you.
Jennifer Rothschild is the author of 18 books and Bible studies, including her latest, Take Courage: A Study of Haggai. Known for her substance, signature wit and down to earth style, she weaves together relatable stories with biblical truth to help women know and live for Christ. She is the featured teacher and founder of Fresh Grounded Faith conferences for women and the host of the 4:13 Podcast.
Do you ever feel like the happy ending of your story is a million miles away?
Then you know how the Jewish people felt when they returned to their wrecked land after exile and began rebuilding the temple. They were distracted, discouraged, and ready to throw in the towel. But the prophet Haggai reminded them they could find courage in the God who had never left them.
Sometimes the landscapes of our lives feel wrecked, with our hope and purpose in shambles. We too get distracted and discouraged. However, God’s presence and promises give us courage to press on and trust Him with our story.
In this 7-session study on the Book of Haggai, learn to walk confidently in your calling, stay motivated despite opposition, and courageously invest your life in God’s purposes, trusting Him for results you may never see in this lifetime. You can stay motivated to be the person God calls you to be and defeat discouragement through Gods presence, His people and His Word.