Read Jeremiah 29
Focus on verse 11
When I make plans, I typically plan with the hope that I will be successful as a result. I cannot think of one time when I intentionally planned to fail. This is not to suggest that I have always succeeded! I can think of many times when my failure to plan resulted in my hopes being dashed. Perhaps you have heard the saying, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”? Apparently, I chose to learn that one by experience.
Life periodically also hands us the kind of experiences that are not within the realm of our control. These are the kinds of tings that we formulate the plan as it unfolds before us – or perhaps more correctly – upon us. It is at times like this when we typically look to some external source for hope.
In today’s reading we encounter a verse that is very often quoted with the intent of imparting hope in the midst of difficult circumstance. This verse is part of a message of encouragement to a group of people who were about to endure incredible hardship. They were about to see their homeland and their way of life utterly destroyed by the invading Babylonian army. Many of their countrymen would perish in the event, but some would be captured and taken to Babylon as servants and slaves – where, Jeremiah assures them – they would survive and ultimately return after seventy years. It is in this context that the Lord issues these words to his people. “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.”
It seems this is one of those situations where our definition of “future and hope” might not be quite consistent with God’s definition. As I contemplate this it occurs to me that God often works in this fashion. Our future hope and success very often lies on the other side of adversity. Think about it! This was consistent with Israel’s history. Before they could enter the Promised Land they had to cross the desert. Before they could claim the land, they had to cross the Jordan and drive out the nations that lived there. This truth is also reaffirmed in some of the experiences they would have in Babylon…Daniel in the lion’s den, the three boys in the fiery furnace, after each of these events the King’s heart was turned toward God, and the men who endured them were promoted.
There is something else that is consistent with each of these situations – none of the people involved in any of these situations signed up voluntarily. They ended up in these adverse situations merely because they chose to be faithful to God! In the western Christian church it would seem that we often get this reversed. We have this notion that if we serve God faithfully that He somehow owes us an easy prosperous life. Perhaps it times for us to re-examine our understanding of what it means when God promises to give us “a future and a hope”? Not to suggest that we don’t want it…we do want the future and hope that He offers, its just that I’m not certain we understand exactly what He may call us to endure to get there.