If you’ve ever given anyone a Christian graduation card, it probably included Jeremiah 29:11. I’m not sure anyone has taken a poll on this, but I am pretty sure it’s the most-tattooed Bible verse. Not to mention I have seen Jeremiah 29:11 bracelets all over the place during college (perhaps this is needless to say, but I attended a Christian university).
It is often used to encourage someone who is going through a difficult time. Someone is comforting you, so they say, “God has a plan for you. He wants you to prosper.” Maybe you’ve just lost a job or a loved one. In order to provide hope, someone might quote Jeremiah 29:11 to you.
When it comes to trusting God, it would be great if I could just tell you God has “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” However, that is taking this out of context.
Jeremiah chapter 29 is a letter sent by Jeremiah. It is to the exiles in Babylon. They were taken to a different location and culture, and God was offering them hope. God knows their exile would not last forever. God tells them to find peace in the midst of their circumstances. It is not a singular message to an individual; it is a message to a group of people.
In verse eleven, God is telling them he does have a promise for them. The you in the “I know the plans I have for you” isn’t you. The message God is delivering via Jeremiah is to the exiles.
We can trust God because he never leaves us. Even though I do not necessarily believe God’s plan is to always protect you and have you prosper, I do believe God has a plan.
Keeping with the importance of context, I want to mention Jeremiah 29:10.
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.”
It would be seventy years, so God was also telling them to get to work. God was not promising to instantly fulfill this promise. God was telling his people he will stay with them.
The message in Jeremiah 29:11 is that God knows that was not the end of their story. If you need hope or encouragement, take heart that where you are is not the end of your story. Once we live into God’s story, we realize we are living for something greater than our individual plan and purpose. I don’t want to simplify it, but God’s plan is ultimately that you love God and love others. That love moves you to action.
When it comes to trusting God, we don’t need to quote Jeremiah 29:11, but we can be reassured God is with us.