There are certain passages in scripture that transcend religious circles. Jeremiah 29:11 is one of those: “’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. ‘” This is a comforting verse, but does it really apply to every believer?
Let’s consider the plight of the Israeli exiles in Babylon as described in the book of Daniel:
“In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia and put in the treasure house of his god.” Daniel 1:1-2
“Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel”. Daniel 1:8-9
“To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.” Daniel 1:17
Notice how actively God is at work in this story. Why was this significant to me? Well, for starters it made me realize that I need to expand my understanding of Jeremiah 29:11. This is a very comforting verse, but I realize that I’ve probably misunderstood it by applying my own definition of prosperity to it and forgetting that it is God who decides what is profitable, not me. It would have been very easy for Daniel and the other exiled Israeli captives to feel that God wasn’t honoring His promise when He “delivered” Israel into the hands of the Babylonians. However, in spite of their dire circumstances, God was with them, supporting them, providing for them, and preparing them for something much greater than just being happy and comfortable in their existence. God could have protected Israel from Babylon, but He had an even more radical plan in mind. Rather than conquer Babylon with the sword, He was going to use four righteous young men to win their hearts from within.
My desire after reading this passage is let go of the mindset that because God has promised me hope and a future, it means God owes me anything. He has promised me a greater hope and greater future than what I might want for myself here and now, so instead of allowing my circumstances to dictate my happiness, I should instead be asking myself how God might be intending to use me in any circumstance. I think this mindset was best exemplified by Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego when they were about to be executed: “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it. But even if He does not, we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold.” (Daniel 3:17-18)
God is able. God has promised me hope and a future. God is still in charge.