Jeremiah 29:11 Doesn’t Mean What You Think
God’s heart in Jeremiah 29:11 is not that we escape our lot, but that we learn to thrive in the midst of it.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
As we learn to bounce back from painful situations, we find the power of resilience. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines resilience as “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.”
Here’s a fact: You will experience misfortune and change. Pretending otherwise isn’t healthy or realistic. How you deal with misfortune and change determines your joy.
Most of us are aware of the popular verse, Jeremiah 29:11. “‘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’” (NIV).
We quote it, share it with grieving friends, and cross-stitch it onto pillows. But do we truly know what it means? In order to understand its meaning, we have to hang out in the preceding chapter, understanding the history of Israel, the nature of the exile, and the promise of the future.
The nature of the exile
The Jewish people disobeyed God in every possible way. They traded Him for evil gods, preferring to worship demons than bow to the King of Kings. As a direct result of that disobedience, God sent them into exile in Babylon.
In the midst of that, we meet Hananiah, a seer. In chapter 28, he prophesied peace for Israel, saying they will be returning to Jerusalem soon. His message? All will be well.
Problem was, he didn’t tell the truth.
All would not be well.
Thriving in exile
Today, we see hundreds (maybe thousands?) of Hananiahs prophesying the same thing. All will be well. Prosperity is coming. Claim your victory. And then we lump in Jeremiah 29:11 in with that. We want to believe that the Christian life is all about our happiness. We want joy, but we don’t want exile to create it. We want to be strong in Jesus, but we don’t want to walk the road He walked. We want holiness without pain.
The context of Jeremiah 29 is exile. Jeremiah, who rebukes Hananiah and predicts his death, reminds the Israelites that their exile was to continue. Relief would eventually come, but not quickly. He encouraged them to marry and bury, to plant vineyards, to seek the prosperity of their current place.
The promise of the future
Jesus uttered the same truth: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
We look for a better kingdom. As exiles and aliens on this sin-darkened earth, God doesn’t call us to find a way out, but to build resilience in the midst of our trials. God gives us holy hope that this life is not all there is. Our suffering here means something. It helps us long for a better place.
Yes, of course God knows the plans He has for us. And ultimately He will give us a glorious future. But as we walk out our lives on this crazy earth, let’s remember that the best growth comes through persevering through trials, not escaping them entirely. And when we learn perseverance, we find surprising joy.
Used with permission by Global Media Outreach from Mary DeMuth. This article was first published on September 10th, 2015 at marydemuth.com. Mary invites you to her daily podcast at http://www.prayeveryday.show.
Pray this week:
Jesus, I want to practice resilience when misfortune or change come my way. Help me not try to escape my problems, but to face them with determination and with Your strength in me. I want to learn the secret of thriving in exile. Teach me how to have a new heart, new life by embracing the exercise of resilience. Amen.
Are you feeling the weight of the world right now? Do you need a prayer partner to help you through it?