“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 a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
How do you react when you find yourself between a rock and a hard place? Life is full of such moments and it’s easy when we are facing disappointments or daunting problems to wonder what God is up to. This is exactly how the Psalmist felt in Psalm 73. He was confused about how a good and righteous God could allow the wicked to prosper and the godly to suffer.
The people of Israel undoubtedly felt this way in the sixth century BC when thousands of them were deported to Babylon. They were exiles living in a Jewish ghetto more than 1500 kilometres from home. Many of their loved ones had died on the forced march to Babylon and they wanted to know where God was in the midst of their sufferings. Why did God allow them to experience such misery? What was the point of all their struggles? And what, if anything, was God doing in their lives?
It was to answer these questions that the prophet Jeremiah wrote a letter to the exiles which we find in Jeremiah 29:1-32. In this letter Jeremiah reminds them that even in the worst of times God knows what He is doing. He had definite plans for their welfare, even if their present circumstances seemed to suggest otherwise. “I know the plans I have for you,” He says, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you”. God always has a good plan for His people even in the darkest of days.
Of course, we may not know what those plans are, but the fact that they exist makes all the difference to us in the present. Jeremiah told them that while their natural reaction was to weep because there seemed to be no possibility of escape from their troubles (Psalm 137:1), nevertheless God had “plans to give them a future and a hope” (29:11b). He told them that “when seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back …to the place from which I carried you into exile” (29:10; 14). Even though God’s people were passing through a terrible time, they still had reason to be optimistic because they knew that God had plans for them.
If God’s plans for His people have a future component as we see here, then we need to be careful about our attitude to the present. If God hasn’t completed His plans at the moment, then we shouldn’t be grumbling over our circumstances in the present. Since God has plans to give us a future and a hope, we need to be patient as God brings them to fruition. As Job learned in the midst of his bitter trials, God’s plans are always for our good. As he said, “He knows the way that I take; and when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10). We should never doubt that God has something special prepared for us, especially since He has promised us a future and a hope.