Jeremiah 29:11 Doesn’t Mean What You Think it Means
This guest post was contributed by Mary DeMuth, a nationally-known speaker and the author of 14 books. We are excited to promote her new book Everything: What You Give and What You Gain to Become Like Jesus (Thomas Nelson) in which she describes the process and the nuances that shape us to be more like Christ.
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’” (Jeremiah 29:11, 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 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 Babylonian exile.
In the midst of that, we meet Hananiah, a seer. In chapter 28, he prophecies 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.
In this day, we see hundreds (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 the Christian life is all about our happiness. We want growth, but we don’t want exile to create it. We want to be strong in Jesus, but we don’t want to walk the Calvary 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 swiftly. He encouraged them to marry and bury, to plant vineyards, to seek the prosperity of their current place.
God’s heart in Jeremiah’s famous verse is not that we escape our lot, but that we learn to thrive in the midst of it. Jesus uttered the same truth: “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, NLT).
We look for a better kingdom. As exiles and aliens on this sin-darkened earth, God doesn’t call us to escapism, but to thriving in the midst of our trials. God gives us holy hope that this is not all there is. Our suffering here means something. It helps us long for a better country, 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.
What does it mean to live an Everything life for Jesus?
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