Do you have a life verse? Today I am sharing how Jeremiah 29:11 changed my life and how I’ve grown as a Christian with it.
All of us have a particular scripture that has spoken to us at a particular time. Today I am going to share how Jeremiah 29:11 changed my life. When I was much younger, I was much younger in my Christian walk. I felt like life wasn’t going the way I had envisioned it. I will be totally honest. At that time, I had just started to really read the Bible. It’s embarrassing that I was a Christian all my life and yet had never really read The Word on my own at that point. So when I found the verse, naturally I simply applied it to my life at the time.
I assumed God was promising me that all my dreams would come true. (Insert facepalm here). To make a long story short, I was praying for a Godly husband and children but could not find a suitable mate. That verse gave me hope for the next three years as I pursued a deeper relationship with God. In the end, God was indeed faithful and gave me a man whose goodness surprises me to this day. But is that the meaning of the verse?
As comforting as the verse was to me, I misunderstood it. It actually has nothing to do with you or me. The verse is not about what God can do for you. The promise isn’t for us, it was for Judah, yet many people mishandle this verse.
Today the verse has taken on a very different meaning. Perhaps a more correct meaning. In fact. I dare say it changed my life and how I view God’s plan for my life.
The Book of Jeremiah
First, let’s take a look at what is happening in Scripture. Jeremiah was a priest and prophet who served for more than 40 years. He had a difficult life and his message of repentance was not well received. Jeremiah first became a prophet during the reign of Josiah, the last faithful king of Judah. The book of Lamentations was written during Jeremiah’s grief over Josiah. In the two decades following Josiah’s death, Judah would collapse into moral, social, financial, political, and spiritual decay. (Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah were also prophets during this time in scripture.) The country would also change hands through various kings.
In chapters eleven through twenty-eight, Jeremiah warns the people of God’s holy wrath. He warns that if they do not repent, they will suffer and God will not hear their cries for help. Instead, God will let them endure the full consequence of their sin. Jerusalem is overthrown by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar and they are put into slavery. This suffering in slavery would eventually remind them of their need for God.
As you can imagine this message did not go over well. People, by nature, cling to their sin. Jeremiah suffered terrible persecution, was beaten, mocked, and even imprisoned. But I digress. Chapter 29 begins with a letter to his people from Jerusalem who are now exiled in Babylon. The letter opens with Jeremiah quoting what God has told him. In verse five, God says to build houses, make families, have children, and multiply. God is essentially telling them to settle in and to plan for a long stay in Babylon. In verse seven, God tells them to make the best of their stay and to work for the welfare of the city. Then He tells them that they will spend seventy years there and once completed, He promises to send them home. Then God leaves them with this hope:
Like any loving father, discipline is done out of love. God is teaching His people a lesson. “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 of your heart.” (v. 12-13). In these verses, God promises to eventually answer their prayers for restoration. But even more amazing is that God promises when they seek Him with all of their hearts, they will find them.
The Main Takeaway
This verse is often misunderstood and even misused. I admit that in my young Christianity, I misunderstood it too. So now that we know what is going on in scripture, there are some takeaways to consider. The very first thing to consider is this is not a promise to us! This promise was to a very specific people, at a very specific time and for a very specific reason. This is a lesson for us.
It is a lesson about God’s holy hatred for idolatry.
Secondly, it tells us that God will not tolerate sinful rebellion indefinitely.
Lastly is shows us that God’s punishments are just and righteous and that often is done in order to bring about repentance.
It’s Not About Fleshly Things
I sometimes see this verse used to insinuate that God’s plan (or following God) means we will never have trouble or that God will ALWAYS give us the outcome we want. Even though this verse is not a promise to us, let’s take a look at this kind of self-seeking doctrine.
The world of faith movement for example, loves to uses verses like this when we read it out of context without knowing what’s happening in scripture.
As we see in the book of Jeremiah and other parts of scripture, God often permits trouble and struggle in our life so that we rely on Him alone. He also allows it in order to refine the faithful. It is not God’s promise for wealth, perfect health, or other fleshly things. Rather it is God’s promise that He has planned your life. He is in full control of it! Every problem, every storm is completely planned and in His capable hands. This should give us a lot of comfort and peace. The kind of peace that no matter what happens to us, God has permitted it, God is with us, and that it will ultimately be for our good. (See also Romans 8:28)
What are God’s Plans for Our Life
So what exactly is “our good?” There are many times when God will work circumstances out in our desired outcome. There are many times he intervenes and works out our problems after a season of trial. However, that is not the promise here. We should remember that God is most concerned with our salvation and holiness. Simply put, God is in the business of saving souls. Romans 8:28 isn’t speaking about circumstances working for our good. Rather he is saying that God will use it for our sanctification. He will use it to conform us to the image of Christ.
A Look at Paul
That means that God’s plans can look very different from ours. Let’s stop for a moment and take a look at the book of Romans. In the Epistle, Paul is in Corinth and he is writing to coverts in Rome. Paul opens the letter explaining that he has tried many times to come to Rome but that he has been prevented from going (Rom 1:13). You can read about those circumstances to which he is referring in the book of Acts. This is where it gets interesting!
God has created circumstances that had actually prevented Paul from going to teach Christians in Rome. It is possible that Paul was perplexed about why God prevented him? After all, he was intending to do God’s work there. Why prevent him? Yet, God’s plan is often so much greater than we can imagine. By preventing Paul from going, Paul would write a letter to the Romans. 2,000 years later, we are reading the letter. Paul intended to save hundreds maybe even thousands in Rome. God saved millions over two millennia around the globe. God’s ways are much higher than ours. It’s important to note God did eventually permit Paul to go to Rome, but when he did, it was as a prisoner, and after being bitten by a poisonous snake, and being shipwrecked!
God’s Great Plan For Us
And it is that very thing that has really opened my eyes. God had a good plan for Paul’s life. God’s good plan for Paul included being lost at sea, being robbed, beaten with rods, shipwrecked, hunger, thirst, imprisonment, and eventually being beheaded all for the glory of God. God’s plan for Peter’s life included being crucified upside down. God’s plan for John’s life spared him martyrdom but included being exiled and dying as an enemy of the state for not participating in emperor worship. Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego were thrown into a furnace. Daniel was a prisoner in chains. And Joseph… thrown in a pit and sold into slavery.
God’s good plan for our life is all about glorifying Him and furthering His kingdom and even in the worst-case scenario – martyrdom – He will make something good out of it. Coming to the realization that God’s plan for my life can include everything up to and including martyrdom, changed my life and it changed how I viewed my everyday struggles.
Make the Best of Your Season
I think it’s also important to note that in the book of Jeremiah in chapter 29, God tells his people to stay busy, build a life, and raise a family while they are waiting to be returned home. God even tells them to invest in the welfare of the city where they are enslaved! Now in this particular instance, God tells them exactly how long they will be exiled. We, unfortunately, don’t know how long our seasons of trial will last. But the example we can take from this is that even when we are in limbo or a season of trial or hardship, we should still try to live a fruitful life that honors God.
How Jeremiah 29:11 Changed My Life
I have grown as a Christian with this beautiful verse, but it should not be our “life verse.” It is important to remember that this isn’t a promise to us, it is a lesson.