Many of us who are Christians have heard and clung to the statement, “For I know the plans I have for you.” Jeremiah 29:11 We use it to explain why we should have hope and not give up when things go bad. It is a comfort during those times because it reminds us that God has our back and all of this is a part of His plan. I have found comfort from it while waiting for direction. But is that all it means? Is that the only lesson we can learn from it?
To answer these questions, I went back a few chapters to get the context. As I suspected, we have missed the full impact of this statement.
It all comes down to a promise, the conditions and consequences of not fulfilling the conditions. God promised Judah that He would not bring calamity on them if they turned back to Him. He desired them to keep His statues and commandments and serve Him only. If they chose to continue to disobey Him, He would gather the nations from the north to attack and King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon to enslave them for 70 years. It is recorded that the king, prophets and priests of Judah chose to continue to disobey God. God promised to destroy the king and those who did not go into captivity as He directed. Those who did go into captivity were promised time to return to God, to get to know Him and once again be His people and He their God. The captives were to build homes and grow their families as if they were home in their homeland. During this time they would learn of Him, they would seek Him call on Him and learn to serve Him with their whole being. Then they would be His people and He their God. At the end of the 70 years He would restore everything to them. This was His plan for His people.
For those of us who believe we the inheritors of Abraham’s and his descendants promises by faith we can learn much from Judah’s experience. If we keep the word of God that we say we believe, He will not bring calamity on us. If we choose to disobey Him count on being punished. Our captivity can be a variety of things, manifested in a variety of ways. We can become captive to habits, mental illness, anger, resentment, depression, poor finances or bad relationships. During this time, use it to get to know your God and return completely to Him. Know that He is keeping all of your “good stuff” safe and protected while you are learning. It will all be restored. This is His plan for you and me.