>Life is full of contrasts. We often don’t think about them, but they’re all around us: light and darkness, natural and unnatural, simple and complex, healing and destructive – look around and you’ll see it. We aren’t just surrounded by contrasts, we are full of them ourselves. Within each one of us is light and darkness, the natural and the unnatural, the simple and complex, the power to heal and the power to destroy.

I recently spent some time reflecting on a picture. At first, I thought the exercise was a little hokey, but I allowed myself to take it seriously. It’s amazing what we hear when we simply choose to listen. Unfortunately, my scanner doesn’t seem to be working, so I’ll have to describe it to you instead of posting the picture.

In the foreground of the picture, on the right hand side, is a stone building. I don’t know if it is a castle or a warehouse or what it is really. All you can see is this dark, cold stone with what appears to be a black door on the outside. It’s a close up view, so you can’t really make out what the building is in the first place. Surrounding the building is dirt. There appears to be a wide area around the building that is nothing but dirt. You know, the kind that you see when they are in the process of building a new subdivision. The land is torn up and there’s nothing but dirt and rocks all over the place. It is cloudy. Some of the clouds are kinda dark. They kind of look like rainclouds. In the background of the picture is a massive forest. Trees reaching to the sky, which is clear overhead. Abundant greens fill the horizon, and from the clouds is a rainbow reaching down to touch the forest.

When I look at this picture, I’m struck by the contrasts. In the forefront, the stone building has no windows. The door is dark, foreboding and in the shadows. The ground is desolate – again, nothing but dirt and rocks. Destruction. Cold. Uninviting. If you only look at the front of the picture, that’s all you get. But when you look into the horizon, there’s a different story.

There’s a story of abundant life. There is light and hope, and the promise of something more. There is the reminder that as bad and cold and lonely as things look in front of you. There is more just a little further away. And that’s the story of Israel in the Old Testament.

When Jeremiah is called by God, he is told that part of his call is “to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant” (Jer 1:10). At this point, Israel’s sin had brought the need for purging. Israel was rotting, and it was time for them to be held accountable, and so, that’s what happened. Babylon came and conquered Jerusalem, and over the years, exiled many of its people – at least, the ones that weren’t killed or died in the city during the siege. The time to pluck, break down, destroy and overthrow had finally come. Jeremiah spends a good chunk of the first part of his book on this message of destruction, but on the horizon was something better. There was light and hope, and the promise of something more.

While Jeremiah is often referred to as the “Prophet of Doom,” he also gives one of the most hope-filled promises of the Old Testament. Jeremiah 29 talks about God’s plans for a future and a hope. God will be found if only the people will seek Him with their whole heart. There is promise of restoration, of hope on the horizon. That’s what I see when I look at this picture. Hope. Sure, the coldness is right in front, but you have to be able to look past it. Look towards the promise of abundant life that lies ahead. This cold, dark present is not the reality. There is hope that awaits us.