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Life doesn’t always work out the way we want.

What do we do when we find ourselves in a situation in which life isn’t turning out the way we had hoped? How do we respond when our own sins, or the sins of those around us, have derailed our hopes and dreams for life? What do we do when a sudden loss of employment forces us to make decisions that completely change our lives? How do we move on when the plans we had hoped for are derailed because of unexpected health issues? Or what do we do when we realize that the dreams we had of our lives as we graduated from college have never materialized?

When the pieces of life are falling apart, where do we turn?

In Jeremiah 18, God sends Jeremiah down to the potter’s house and promises to give him a message from the Lord. While there, Jeremiah watches the potter at the wheel molding and creating a vessel of clay. But while working, the potter realizes that the vessel is flawed, it is not going to turn out the way the potter had hoped. But the potter does not just pick it up and throw it away. Instead, the potter will rework the clay into another vessel, one that seems good to him.

“Then the word of the Lord came to (Jeremiah): O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.'” (Jeremiah 18:5-6)

The potter was forming a vessel. It was a good vessel, designed for good purposes. Maybe it was a cup, a jar, a bowl; no matter what, it was designed for a specific purpose. But the clay became marred. It was cracked. Even though the potter was a master, the vessel was not forming the way the potter had hoped. So the potter started over. The potter went back to square one. The potter pushed everything back down to the basic level and started the wheel spinning again and began forming the clay into a new vessel. It was not the same vessel that was originally designed. The vessel was now going to have a different purpose, but it was a good purpose. The vessel would not be second-rate. It would not be considered marred because it did not fulfill its original design. It was be a good vessel, designed for a good purpose.

God’s reminder is that God can do the same for our lives. Our lives may not turn out the way we want. They may become marred because of sin. The actions of another person may harm us; change us. A job loss may derail our plans. Health issues may cause us to reconfigure our dreams. When any of these, or similar situations, occur, its easy to begin thinking of ourselves as damaged goods. It’s easy to begin wondering why even try; why bother to go on? It’s easy to become defeated, to become depressed, or to lose self-esteem. Yet God says, am I not like this potter? Can I not still form you into a good vessel?

It’s hard to believe that our lives can still amount to something when we become damaged goods. It’s easy to become depressed when life happens and our lives become changed. And it’s easy to give up on God.

Yet God’s promise is that God can still mold us into something good. Not just that God can use us even in our broken state. Not just that God can even use damaged goods. But instead, God will start over and form us into something good, a vessel used and needed for good purposes. The new vessel will not be damaged in any way; it will be perfectly designed for a good purpose.

Even now, God can form us into good vessels. Even now, God can shape us into something of noble purpose. We may have been marred at one time, or even now. But God can, and will, start over with us and form us into a vessel that will be useful in God’s mission to redeem and restore the creation.