Jeremiah 29:11-13 happens to be one of the most popular and comforting message of God that assures us believers of His never-ending love and care. However, irrespective of the hope it bestows on us, this message isn’t often understood in the right context. SpiritualRay explains the meaning of "For I know the plans I have for you" and more.
Did You Know?
As popular and favorite this excerpt may be, Jeremiah 29:11-13 happens to be the most misinterpreted, or, to brutally put it, abused verse in the Holy Bible.
Shocked? How can such a simple verse, with such simple words, and an even simpler-yet-holy meaning be misunderstood or abused in its interpretation? The popular quote by Gene Ruyle, “A half truth is much worse than a whole lie because it makes it even harder to tell the difference between the two.”, defines what we are trying to say, quite perfectly. In reference to this verse, what people tend to do, is only read the part that seems comforting to them, however, to truly understand the connotation of what these words truly mean, we must also know the background of when and why these words were written.
These verses are a part of the letter written by Prophet Jeremiah to the exiles who were driven from Jerusalem to Babylon.
This was a period of testing and trial, pain and sorrow, darkness and uncertainty. Imagine the plight of those that were forced to leave their own lands to an unknown place. Even we come across such times, maybe not as severe, but we too experience trials and tribulations in our lives. In those times, these verses are what we look up to, in order to seek assurance, comfort, strength, and will to walk in the path that God has lead us to. The following section explains the true connotation of Jeremiah 29:11-13.
Meaning of ‘For I Know The Plans I Have For You’ Explained
In order to aptly understand the meaning of Jeremiah 29:11-13, we must also go through the text preceding and proceeding these lines. The following is an excerpt of the same, taken from the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible.
“This is what the Lord says: ‘When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 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. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.'”
― Jeremiah 29:10-14
Whom were these words originally addressed to?
If you read the entire chapter (29) written by Prophet Jeremiah, it is clearly evident that the words were addressed to the exiles when they were going through a time that spelled nothing but restlessness, emptiness, hopelessness, trembling of faith, lack of direction, and absence of a guiding light. Then, God gave these words as a guiding light. He instructed them to settle, accept, and pray for this city where they have taken refuge. He also told them to marry the natives of the city, produce offspring, grow plants and eat their fruits …, all in all, to settle and wholeheartedly accept the place as their own, for they were to stay there for 70 years. Possibly, many of them would not even get to see the world after 70 years, most of them wouldn’t even live that long!
But, in the midst of the darkness that surrounded them, Prophet Jeremiah sent hope in the form of this letter that consisted of God’s assuring words. Yes, they were going through an immensely difficult time; yes, their hearts were troubled and their faith was on the verge of giving up the last thread it held on to, but even in the middle of these hardships, God guided them to be patient, to accept their situation, to accept this new city, for He knew what He had in mind for them, and that irrespective of what did seem at that moment, their future held hope and prosperity, not harm. However, this was applicable to only those who believed in His path, and walked in His name with a sincere, faithful, and repenting heart―with all their hearts!
How are these words misinterpreted?
As mentioned earlier, many of us tend to focus on only those words that comfort us, and therefore, we fail to pay attention on the actual aspect of it. Believe it or not, a majority of people who come across this verse interpret it this way: Because we are God’s children, He has certain plans for us (which would obviously be in accordance to our prayers and desires). He promises us of hope and a future (meaning if we hope to get into so-and-so college, or so-and-so company, we will get into it).
This was just one example, probably not a good one. The main point is, that most of us tend to link these words with our plans, and not God’s. This is where we go wrong, this is where we misinterpret His actual message. We link it with our personal pleasures and desires, not with faithfulness and repentance. We remember that God has planned a prosperous future for us, but we fail to remember the part where He says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Now, we may pray with all our heart to fulfill one of our desire, but if that is not what God has planned for us, we will not get it, and then these words will not comfort but scourge our hearts.
What do these words actually interpret?
Think of it this way: You want your future to be happy, but you ‘want’ to be happy only through a particular manner, let’s say by taking path A. You seek God’s help, pray to Him with all your heart, but see nothing happening.
On the other hand, God has promised you a prosperous future, but perhaps the way He has chosen for you is not through path A, perhaps path B! Maybe you desired for money to bring you happiness, but it could be that your true happiness lies only in service or welfare of others, and not through money. Bottom line, our God knows us better than we know ourselves; therefore, He knows the plans He has for us, which may not be the same as the plans we have in mind.
“For I know the plans I have for you” implies that He knows the plans and He is the only one who will decide the way, which He already has. Irrespective of what it may seem at the moment, irrespective of things being close to doom, the ones who irrevocably believe in Him will see hope even when it’s difficult to find any, they will have a prosperous future even if their hands are empty as of now. However, all this is possible only when their hearts do not cease to believe, and their allegiance does not divert from the one true God. All that was lost will be restored for those who believe, and repent for their sins.
Some experts believe that Jeremiah 29:11 only applies to the exiles in accordance with their tribulations, however, there are some who suggest that the connotation of these words is aptly transferable to Christianity today. Although not as grave as the exiles, but each and everyone of us tends to go through this phase of hopelessness, where we feel lost and homeless. It is during those times that these verses comfort us, rekindle our hopes, assure us that no matter where we are now, with a rightful heart and His never-ceasing mercies, our sins would be forgiven. The fire that we are made to pass through will only purify us, free us from the burden of sins, and take us to a worthy, righteous, prosperous, and happy future, where we shall live and dwell in our actual home―with God in heaven!
In conclusion …
Most of us tend to think, if God loved His people so much, why did He allow this phase to enter into the lives of His believers? Why did He allow anyone to drive His people away from their homes, from Jerusalem to Babylon? Even today, why does He put us in trial? Well, what we all must first understand is that we are God’s children, but, irrespective of being made in His image, we are not like Him. We tend to sin, get influenced by the allurements of this mortal world. Therefore, in order to save our souls from the fires of Hell, God, like a loving and true father, tends to discipline us. And this phase that made the believers, exiles, was nothing but “disciplining” them so that their souls may be free from the burden of sin.
To put it straight, to be a Christian and live by His words doesn’t make us immune to difficulties. His path is not an easy one, and inevitably, there will be trials, tribulations, and testing. Most likely, knowingly or unknowingly, we will end up sinning against Him, or even against one another. However, at the end of it all, if we seek His guidance in all our ways and repent with all our hearts, we will indefinitely emerge as refined, disciplined, and undefeated winners with a hopeful and prosperous future. Amen.