“‘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)
Jeremiah 29:11 is, undoubtedly, one of the most quoted passages in the Bible. It’s one of my favorites. You’re probably familiar with it as well. It’s quoted often, inscribed on plaques and found in countless Christian cards. What most may not know about it is the setting in which this diamond of a promise is placed. Just a glance at the verse before it gives us a hint.
“This is what the Lord says, ‘You will be in Babylon for seventy years ….” (Jeremiah 29:10a NLT)
What’s that about?
Jeremiah’s messages were among the most difficult to deliver of any prophet. They were unpopular and didn’t promise victory over the enemy at the time. In fact, Jeremiah was commissioned to call his people back to God and warn them of imminent danger if they didn’t. Despite all that God had done for His people and all the warnings that Jeremiah gave them, they refused to listen. Eventually, just as predicted, the hammer of discipline would strike and God’s people would be defeated by the invading Babylonian army. Many would be deported to Babylon where Jeremiah told them they would remain for seventy years.
After the second invasion, Jeremiah wrote a letter from Jerusalem to the leaders and all the people who had been exiled to Babylon. In that letter, he encourages them with hope and a promise from God. He told them, after the seventy years of captivity, God said,
“I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. 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 29:10b-11)
Now, if you had received that letter, as hopeful as the future of God’s promise was, you would want some counsel on how you were to live in the meantime. This is what I call the new normal. When we experience traumatic changes in our lives or things don’t turn out as we expected them and we are discouraged and facing an uncertain and unknown future, what do we do? In verses 4-7, Jeremiah encourages them to make the best of a not-so-good present situation. He encourages them not to give up.
“Don’t dwindle away!” (Vs. 6)
In other words, move ahead with your lives. Don’t let your life grind to a halt during troubled times. Make the adjustments you must make and keep moving forward.
When you enter troubled times or sudden change, do what Jeremiah told them to do. Pray diligently, seek the Lord and don’t give up. Listen to verse 12-14,
“‘In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for Me wholeheartedly, you will find Me. I will be found by you,’ says the Lord.”