“For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 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. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.” Jeremiah 29: 10-14
Jeremiah 29:11 is a verse we see and hear a lot. It’s very popular as a cross-stitch, or as a sign in offices and homes. Many people like to use it as encouragement that God has great plans for us (which He does, indeed, have) and that they are plans only for our good (which they are.) But I’d like to leave you with some uncommon thoughts on Jeremiah 29:11 and the verses that surround it.
A couple years ago I had the privilege of hearing John Stonestreet (a Christian apologist) speak in Winston-Salem. And he shared some really intriguing thoughts on Jeremiah 29:11 that I think make the verse even more impactful and encouraging than we tend to think of it. What Stonestreet pointed out is that we like to take verses from the Bible and pull them out of context. Not that there is anything wrong with Jeremiah 29:11 by itself, but look at it in context of verses 10-14.
In this passage, God does promise His people that He has good plans for them, plans to prosper them. However, He’s telling them that these plans are going to follow seventy years of captivity in Babylon. Seventy years. Seventy years is a long time to live as captives in a foreign nation. Seventy years is a long time to trust that God has good plans. But look what God says after verse eleven. He says that His people will call upon Him and that He will come to them. He says that they shall seek Him and find Him.
He also says that He is the one Who sent them into exile in the first place. So here is the thought I’m hoping to leave you with. While God’s plans are good and hopeful for us, they may not always seem that way to us.
We might be going through some hardship that seems the complete opposite of hopeful and prosperous. We might not think that the future looks so great from where we are standing. But guess what? God promises us that it is.
No matter what happens to us, God promises that His plans for us are only for good. So even if we find ourselves in tough situations, He might have just put us there to learn something. He placed the Israelites in captivity so that they learned to call on God and trust Him. And He promises us that when we call out to Him and seek Him, we will find Him. He doesn’t just leave us in a sticky situation with a vague hope that one day things will get better. He’s with us the whole time, teaching us, and working out His good plans in our lives.
Yes, God’s plans are good. They are plans for hope and not evil. They are plans for our future. We may not always understand how they work for good or why they happen the way they do. But we have a God who will come when we seek Him, who will answer when we pray to Him. A God who doesn’t leave us in tough places, but guides us through them into a bright future.