What do you do with the gift that doesn’t fit—either in size or personality? Sure, pet rocks were all the rage in the ’70s. But unless you collect weird paperweights or are planning an eclectic rock garden, your special rock is destined to remain unopened, tucked away in a drawer.
If you’re lucky, the gift came with its tag and receipt, so all you have to do is take it back or ship it before the return expiration date. Sometimes that means the giver may find out you were less than pleased. Without a receipt, you fall victim to the return policy enforced by the store it was purchased from, and often there’s nothing you want in exchange for the pet rock. Or the fruitcake.
Like an unwanted gift, life has a way of doling out some circumstances we’d like to send back from whence they came. We hang our heads, shake our fists in the air and mutter, “Thanks for nothing,” as if the universe can hear us. But if you’re a Christian, you know that things don’t just happen by chance. God is all-knowing, sovereign, and loving; therefore, whatever comes our way is, in fact, sent by special delivery.
But God. These two wonderful words—words so full of hope—are found throughout the Bible. In fact, the phrase is used over sixty times in Scripture. It reminds us that although circumstances are tough, trying, or tedious, God has a plan. He can turn our pain into His gain, exchange hard times for deeper, stronger faith. An Arabian proverb says, “All sunshine with no rain makes a desert.” God’s Word says it better in one of Scripture’s greatest passages about God’s incredible exchange policy.
“To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.
And they shall rebuild the old ruins,
They shall raise up the former desolations,
And they shall repair the ruined cities,
The desolations of many generations” (Isaiah 61:3-4).
Can you count the exchanges God offers in these verses? Mourners offered consolation. Ashes made beautiful. Mourners anointed with the oil of joy. Garments of praise replace heavyhearted spirits. Ruins rebuilt. Desolations repaired. Do you see yourself or your circumstances in any of these promises? I sure do.
What situations are you suffering through? Can you think of a Scripture that counters your circumstances? Depression relieved by delight. Fear replaced with faith. Sadness overcome by gladness. Loneliness banished through the promise of God’s presence. Pray today that God would reveal your own custom exchange prayer inspired by Scripture. Next, write it down and place it on your mirror, refrigerator, or dashboard. Finally, meditate on this passage while you wait and see that the Lord is good. “‘I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 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 seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 29:11-14).