“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11
This passage of Scripture from Jeremiah is often misinterpreted.
Individuals who struggle are tempted to want to interpret welfare (or prosper as the NIV and other translations suggest) as a means to anticipate blessing, abundance, and prosperity, which in a consumerist society usually translate to bigger, better, and more.
Israel is in captivity, slaves to their Babylonian masters. Life is anything but pleasant. Existence is a struggle and hardships are an everyday occurrence.
How do slavery, struggle, hardship, turmoil, and suffering have anything to do with welfare or prosperity?
The fact is, the 70-year Exile was a part of God’s plan to give His people a hope and a future. What we ask, however, is why couldn’t they obtain the hope and future without 70 years of struggle? That’s where God’s plan comes in.
In my own life, I want to avoid the hardships and get straight to the hope and future part of God’s plan for me. But God does things differently than I do. He understands that my heart is like Israel’s: Prone to stray.
Distractions are everywhere in our lives. Whether it’s building ministries, advancing one’s career, or managing a family – it’s easy to get distracted from God’s desire that we stay connected with Him. Like Israel, we too can forget.
God’s plan is for our welfare. He built us for a relationship with Him, and He understands that for us to be whole, complete, healthy, sound, and secure requires communion with Him. We may think prosperity and wellbeing is about success, fame, and fortune, but that’s not how God defines it.
To become whole, we must be intimately connected with our Heavenly Father. That means all that matters to us is His purpose and desire. When God becomes first in everything we do, contentment, peace, rest, and sustainment are the fruit of that intimate bond with the Holy One.
If we’re struggling to find hope in the hard moments of life, remember that God has a plan for us. Sometimes we get so distracted that we wander off on our own path, and the only thing that can bring us back to God’s way is hardship. Sometimes God’s plan must include suffering as an instrument to encourage us to return to Him.
God’s words to Jeremiah indicate that He alone knows the plan for Israel. Take courage. God alone knows the plan for you.
Here’s the question to ask yourself: Am I open to God’s plan?
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