The Babylon Experience | Sherena's Testimony

Updated: Mar 22

Have you ever had a Babylon experience? Let me explain. A Babylon experience is when the plans you had for your future are suddenly replaced by God’s, and you're not prepared for the change in direction.


I got the idea of a Babylon experience when I studied Jeremiah 29:11, a text said so often we can sometimes gloss over it, I know I am guilty of this. But allow me to give you more context around the verse, God is sharing with one of His prophets, Jeremiah, what He desires His people to know about what they are currently experiencing - the verse is said during a period of uncertainty for the Israelites.


They had already been told about what was going to happen - that they would be taken into captivity by the Babylonians, something God through Jeremiah reminded them after they were taken captive in Jeremiah 29:4. All their plans and dreams for their future would have gone up in smoke! I can imagine they would have been very confused as to why, as the chosen ones, God would allow this to happen to them! Their captivity meant all their future plans were cruelly disrupted, and i'm sure they felt like they had no future, unable to see even a glimmer of light in the darkness of their situation.



How many times has this been us in our current state? Making plans by ourselves, expecting God to bless them, but God cannot bless what He has not had a hand in creating, especially when He pre warns us of the outcome yet we want to cosy up to the plans we made by and with ourselves.


In the middle of their confusion and dismay at what was happening to them God sends them this message, through Jeremiah, (chapter 29) beginning in verse 4 - 7 & 10, 11.


 

4 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfil my good promise to bring you back to this place. 11 For 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.”


 

Can you imagine going through the worst time of your life, and then someone telling you that this is time for you to be thinking of a future? Telling you to forget about the future you have planned and accept your 'new normal'? A lot of us would struggle with this kind of disruption, out here making ten year plans with no room for the Holy Spirit to go to work in our life!

How do you let go of the future you had planned, especially when your plans involved God heavily?

The Israelites are left scrambling around in the dark trying hopelessly to hold on to the familiar, trying to cling to the comfortable. Like, are you okay? How can you, God, my Creator, the one who knitted me together in my mother’s womb, not see what is happening?



I can definitely relate to the above. I believe that has been most of my life since I allowed Christ to rule my heart.


But think about it, they knew what was ahead, God, in His infinite mercy and grace forewarned several times! And they refused to listen. How stubborn we can be when we don’t hear what we want to hear!


There is reassurance, guidance, instruction and a wonderful promise in the passage we read above. What takes us by surprise never takes God by surprise!


On some occasions it’s Him orchestrating things behind the scenes of our lives, sometimes a negative can actually be a positive. God put Jeremiah there to deliver the news to them, providing guidance and instruction on what they needed to do. Many would have looked at it as though God was punishing them but God is so amazing that He also promises, this too shall pass.


My Story: My Babylon Experience


One such Babylon moment is currently ongoing but it started in 2015, I was just finishing off my masters and my plan was to graduate and then find a fantastic job in Manchester or Birmingham or better still in the Caribbean, get married and serve God in some form of ministry work that was led by my husband.


These plans that I had made were not made with God, and those plans changed drastically.

October 30th, at 3:38pm I was diagnosed officially with spinocerebellar ataxia 3, and with that diagnosis the landscape of my future changed.


What takes us by surprise never takes God by surprise!

It wasn’t an overnight change but a gradual one. For a long time I convinced myself that nothing would change - that worked until everything started changing!

Before the changes started I was running in the park with an elder at church to raise funds for a charity called ADRA, I went on mission trips, attended missionary training at Newbold and while I was there I also did quite a lot of physical missionary work. I was walking unaided. I was certain my future had to involve some form of foreign missionary work, but God. I was a doer, I loved being active, but God.



In 2018, I slowly felt the pain in my knees and ankles get worse, to the point where I no longer could dismiss it even if it was only now and then. I progress to using a walking stick, but it was only occasionally, when I became really tired. I kept pressing on, I even moved to Watford in pursuit of my dream job despite the 80 minute round trip commute. But things just got worse, February 8th 2019 I lost my father, two and a half weeks after the move.


It was unexpected and to this day I still feel guilt for not being there when he died. I was certain that he was going to be alright and when He died I was shaken to my core. It was so sudden, unexpected and oh so painful! Since my dad passed, something in me has never been the same. I chose to move back home to Preston in August of 2019.


It was during my last foreign missionary trip, to Iceland, I realised that my disability was becoming a hindrance to the actual mission itself. I had to realise that my plans of being a foreign missionary weren’t going to work out the way I had planned. How do you let go of the future you had planned - especially when your plans involved God heavily?


My prayer for a long time after that realisation was, ‘God I know the plans that I had were not your plans for me but I NEED to know that I have a purpose in this life, because I am on the cusp of leaving the church - although I have no intention of leaving you - I am exhausted by the fake platitudes, smiles and happy Sabbaths. I am worn out from telling people that I am okay when on the inside I am falling apart. I need you to show up now!’


God showed me that being vulnerable is not weak, trusting in Him is not me losing control but it is accepting that I am not God and there is so much peace and freedom in that.

At the end of that year the Pastor called me and said I was nominated to be an elder and would I accept. I asked my him for some time to pray on it before I could answer.


Honestly I felt as though God was laughing at me, rolling on the floor with tears of laughter running down His cheeks! I asked Him what He wanted me to do, and He directed me to the text ‘in the multitude of counsellors there is safety’. So I spoke to seasoned elders from other churches and pastors as well about whether I should accept.



I am not going to lie, I have seen the church show up for members including myself in ways I would not have had I not accepted the role. So yes, I accepted. God also showed me through the Babylon year of 2020 that it wasn’t that I was unsupported by my church family. It was simply my pride that was stopping me from allowing others to see my suffering and my pain.


God showed me that being vulnerable is not weak, trusting in Him is not me losing control but it is accepting that I am not God and there is so much peace and freedom in that.


Principles I Want You To Take From My Story


The moral of me sharing a snippet of my Babylon experiences with you is to reassure you that when you find yourself in a Babylon situation:


1. It is not always the devil.

God led the Israelites to get captured because he needed to humble them and teach them that reliance on Him is not limiting but freeing. He only ever gives us the best of Him! Sometimes God closes the door but He also provides another opportunity.


2. God is for you and no situation will overwhelm you.

In my opinion the saying ‘God never gives us more than we can bear’ equates to ‘God never gives us more than He can bear!’ We are to give everything over to Him because He can handle it. So when we are in our Babylon moments lay your burden at His feet - He desperately wants us to rely on Him.


3. He told the Israelites that He carried them into exile, amazing!

Surrendering is not easy, and I don’t have it all figured out, far from it, but God doesn’t require perfection He just wants to see progress. For a long time I battled with that as a new Christian, I was under the false assumption that I needed to be the ‘perfect’ Christian but I could not figure out how to be that perfect Christian. It’s only in the past year that I have accepted that God doesn’t need me to be or want me to try to be perfect, what He does want is to see progress in my walk with Him.



4. Christianity is as individual as my condition, where everyone who has it experiences it a little differently.

Our life experiences mean that our walk with Him will be individual and no two christians are alike and that’s ok. We are not called to be like everyone else - just try to be as much like Him as we can daily. ‘We are saved by faith alone, but not by a faith that remains alone. True faith will always produce a changed life’ And that’s the point of us having babylon experiences, for us to grow, draw closer to Him and allow Him to be the author of our lives.


This was not the path that I wanted to be on, but in the season of my life where I was, I knew after hearing that verse, God’s plan must go before my own. Jeremiah 29:11 was exactly what I needed to hear at that time.


‘We are saved by faith alone, but not by a faith that remains alone. True faith will always produce a changed life’

What has my Babylon experience taught me?

  • God will change your life, if it is your desire to, He will not force you to see things His way!

  • God wants our trust and our faith to believe that His worst is still far better than our best!

  • His plan is to multiply what we have, He wants to give us a future filled with hope.


 

About The Author

Hi, I’m Sherena. I’m a self employed marketing assistant and currently in the process of starting a faith based sticker business. I am a huge advocate for making God personal in the lives of others and I feel that is my purpose, I am just waiting on God to tell me how.

 

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