“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. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29: 11- 13
This is one of those verses that makes it onto encouragement cards or even gets the highly honored name of “favorite verse.” It’s a verse that’s so full of hope that we cling to it like a buoy in the stormy seas of life.
It’s one of those funny verses, though, that is smack in the middle of a book in the Bible that we don’t often read. So, when I was reading through Jeremiah recently in my read-through-the-Bible in a year plan, I practically grazed right over that verse without noticing it. Then, I stopped, a little bit startled. That verse, that favorite hopeful encouraging verse, was right in the middle of Jeremiah?
Wait a minute? I was just reading about how God planned to destroy the Babylonians, to pour out His wrath upon Israel and Judah, and all God’s reasons for these disciplinary measures.
God’s people, the kingdom of Judah, had disowned Him. They had actually sacrificed their own children in the fire to another god, which seems like the most abhorrent sin I could ever imagine. So, I was right on track with God’s plans to clear the promised land of these people who called themselves by HIS name, but lived like pagans.
They were immoral, they were unjust, they disobeyed God’s direct commands, they killed His prophets, they thought they could get away with their sinful lifestyles without consequences. And finally, after years of putting up with this atrocious behavior, God is ready to bring down the hammer.
So, “His” people were attacked, carried off to Babylon (and various other countries), the temple and palace were burned to the ground and Jerusalem was left desolate. God said it was about time that the land took it’s Sabbath rest.
But, God never ends with discipline. He didn’t give up on His people even though they had forsaken Him. He stilled loved them with an everlasting love and He still planned to woo them back into His embrace.
Sometimes when you read a verse in the context of the rest of story, the meaning changes a little bit. But this time, the meaning was only amplified for me. When things seem to be at the very worst they could EVER be, that’s the exact moment when God says He has a plan. Yes, His people are undergoing great discipline, but His plan is never for their harm.
Ultimately, God’s plan for our lives isn’t about prosperity and everything being just wonderful. No, His plan is that we would seek Him.
And so, I realized that God does have a plan for my life and that alone gives me great hope. But when the plan seems difficult, I am reminded that His plan for me always revolves around my relationship with Him. Whatever is going on in my life, His ultimate plan is that I would come to Him, seek Him and live in communion with Him.
*Photo Credit: Bern Altman at stock.xchng