For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11
We all want to plan our own lives. We want to know every detail – who we’re going to marry, where we’re going to live, what kind of job we’re going to have.
Everyone is obsessed about the future, and the simple reason is this: we can’t see it. And when we can’t see something, we feel like we’ve lost control.
For those of us in Christ, however, we can trust that our lives are never out of control. God already sees how everything will play out – He has a plan, and we just need to follow it in obedience.
Jeremiah 29:11 is a powerfully encouraging verse, but it is often used out of context.
And few things are more dangerous than taking scripture out of context to suit our own needs.
So let’s dig into some historical background for just a moment. At the time that the prophet Jeremiah is writing this, the nation of Israel is suffering in exile under Babylonian rule.
They have been conquered by a foreign nation, scattered from their homeland, and alienated from their national identity. But God speaks to His people through Jeremiah, promising them that a future and a hope awaits.
The prophecy turns out to be correct, as eventually, the Persians conquer the Babylonians and allow the Jews return to their homeland. Thus, Jeremiah 29:11 is God’s promise to a specific group of people at a specific point in time.
However, this does not mean that this verse doesn’t apply to us at all.
Quite the contrary, in fact. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says,
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
Even if Jeremiah’s words aren’t directed toward us, they still tell us about God’s faithfulness towards those He loves – and that’s us!
We may not be facing what the Israelites faced, but there are dark situations in our own lives, and we need to know that God is control of them all.
There are plenty of verses all throughout scripture (that are directed towards us) that mirror this idea.
For instance, Romans 8:28 says,
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
God uses everything, even our trials, to accomplish His plan and bring us ultimate joy.
People often misuse Jeremiah 29:11 to mean that God only ever wants sunshine and rainbows for us in life.
They interpret it as a promise that God will never let anything bad or painful happen to us. And that’s a false assumption.
The Bible makes it clear that discipline is a necessary part of the Christian life, and discipline often involves suffering.
But the outcome, the fruit that is produced by it, far outweighs the price we pay.
My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights. Proverbs 3:11-12
Can you imagine a father who never disciplined his child? That child would grow up with a myriad of issues – no respect for authority, no motivation to behave morally, and no maturity in general.
In order to steer the child in the right direction, the father may need to chastise him verbally or even physically, albeit in love.
The same principle applies to us and our Heavenly Father.
Jeremiah 29:11 says that God has a plan for His people – but it never says that suffering won’t be a part of it.
So how should we live in light of Jeremiah 29:11?
First, we should rest in the fact that God will supply our needs. Think of the Israelites – they had nothing.
No power, no wealth, no sense of belonging. And yet God fulfilled His promise to them.
This is a good reminder that our happiness does not depend on our own ability to obtain it. Joy is a gift given to us by the grace of God. Whether we have little or we have much, all that we need is in Him.
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8
We don’t ever have to fear not having enough; Christ is sufficient for all our needs, past, present, and future.
Second, we should trust in the faithfulness of God.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8
The Israelites may not have known Jesus as a man, but they knew His Father.
God fulfilled His promise to them to restore them, to give them a future and a hope. And God fulfills His promises to us today, through Jesus.
Because of Christ, we can be assured that we have an eternal inheritance.
And even if we don’t prosper in this life, the hope and future that we have is in something much greater – the everlasting joy of a relationship with the God who created us, saved us, and redeemed us.