“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT)
We carelessly toss these words out to the one standing before us crying ugly tears of hopelessness. Or, the one standing at the crossroads of a weighty decision. To the grief-stricken, the unhealed, the broken, and weary.
Suppose you feel exiled? Whether physically or spiritually, you feel abandoned, exiled in a place that seems to have no end.
I’ve had the same words said to me, and frankly, in that moment, they angered and frustrated me. They felt trite, somehow, minimizing the things I was wrestling with.
I. Know. This. I know God has plans to prosper me and not to harm me. If we’re honest Jeremiah 29:11 is probably on the top ten list of memory verses. In fact, I googled it. I googled, “what is the top ten Scripture memory verses?” On BibleStudyTools.com, Jeremiah 29:11 was number one.
And yet, how can we claim these words in the midst of the unholy hard? How can we claim the words in the midst of year after year of what seems to be unanswered prayers? How?
When you are in the abyss of darkness and hopelessness all you can do is the next thing. Today, tomorrow, the next day, and the next day. It’s all you’ve got. You put one foot in front of the other, push repeat, and do it again and again and again.
We can’t move forward, living from a place of Jeremiah 29:11, unless we go back.
And, so I do.
I turn back to the beginning of Jeremiah 29, where he has written a letter to the people who’ve been exiled to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar.
This is what the letter said:
“This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says to all the captives he has exiled to Babylon from Jerusalem: ‘Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.’” Jeremiah 29:4-7 (NLT)
In her book, Deeper Waters, Denise J. Huges, says this of Jeremiah 29:11:
“This sounds like a great promise-plans filled with hope and a future that looks bright.It sounds awfully close to the American Dream with its inherent promise of life, liberty, and the persuit of happiness. No wonder we westeners love Jeremiah 29:11 so much. It’s the perfect Bible verse for a meme on Instagram or Facebook. But what about the rest of Jeremiah’s book?”
When you are exiled to the hard edges of life there is hope. Hope in the words above. There is a way to thrive and not live in hopelessness. God gave Jeremiah five instructions for the captives.
- Build homes, and plan to stay.
- Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce.
- Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them, so you may have many grandchildren.
- Work for the peace and prosperity in your place of exile.
- Pray to Lord for its welfare for this will determine your welfare.
The Israelites were commanded to do the next thing, and the next thing, and the next thing. So are we. As hard as it is, doing the next thing, is the thing.
When broken down in this way, we are not focused on the big picture, the hopelessness, the seemingly no end to our captivity. Rather, we prosper in the next thing.
There’s also a commitment to prayer. Prayer is our communication with God. Our communion with God. Prayer is a lifeline from our place of captivity to the One who sets the captives free.
When I put Jeremiah 29:11 in this context, my heart and eyes are open to see the God whose plans are good for me. I am able to see a way to thrive. I find hope, and light, in the darkness.
I pray that where ever you may be today, you will find hope in a Savior who sets the captives free.
Gifts of Grace
I’m blessed to serve you in this place, to share with you the Gifts of Grace as I journey through the wilderness. I picture you across the table, hands wrapped tightly around your cup, sharing life, and laughter, and tears. As I share with you, my own daily struggles, I long to hear what yours may be. Sharing the realness of life. You can do that by commenting below or reaching out to me here.
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