by Stan Mitchell
“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope” (Jeremiah 29:11, NRSV).
There are a lot of young ladies with these words written on a chain around their necks, given by their parents. My daughter has one of her own, from exactly that source. There are many more who have sustained themselves through tough times by reading this passage and assuming that God does indeed have a plan, if they will only trust him.
There’s a rumor going around that this verse has “nothing” to do with us. Apparently somebody “discovered” that this was a promise given to Judah as she faced the terrors of Babylonian captivity. God assures them that even in these desperate circumstances, he still had a plan for them, and his intentions were for their good, not their harm. So that is the context of the passage.
But does that mean it has “nothing” to offer us?
- When did God quit caring about his people? 589 BC? 33 AD? 1966?
- The Lord promised Israelite readers that if they trusted in the Lord “with all their hearts” he would make their paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5,6).
- The Lord promised Roman Christians that “in all things God worked for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28).
- The Lord promised Hebrew readers “never will I leave you, never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5)
- The Lord promised the church in Smyrna that if they remained “faithful till death” he would give them a “crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).
- The Lord promised the Pentecost crowd that if they repented and were baptized they would receive “forgiveness of sins” (Acts 2:38).
Yet we readily (and correctly) draw courage from these and so many other promises. If I may say it as kindly as I can, to rob other Christians of these promises not only exhibits a lack of thoughtfulness toward others in dire straits, it also exhibits a lack of faith in God.
This is our God we’re speaking of; our God who plans for our “welfare,” who “makes our paths straight,” who “will never leave us nor forsake us,” who forgives us of our sins, who gives the faithful a “crown of life.”
Of course Bible passages always have an immediate context (Judah, Israel, the church at Smyrna). It also applies to us. Keep context in mind, but remember this is a God whose nature never changes, who cares about us profoundly, and who plans for our good, not our harm. He loves us forever!