A few days ago, I learned that my university was revoking a $6,000 scholarship for my study abroad semester. Ouch is right. Am I going? I don’t know now. I’m waiting for God to either close that door completely, or find me a new key. This past week has been tumultuous and stressful, and in the midst of all that stress, I’ve been constantly repeating a verse we’ve probably all heard.
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (NKJV)
Jeremiah 29:11. It’s one of my favorite verses. It’s so full of hope and promise, and I need that in my life. But so often, verse 11 is the only one people read. And they get excited that their lives are going to be changed and that sunshine is just around the corner. But there’s so much more to this verse than the promise of a happy tomorrow. Tomorrow might be seventy years away. See, Jeremiah 29:11 isn’t as sunny as you might think it is, but that’s okay, because its meaning is still beautiful.
I’m a firm believer that Old Testament scriptures can still be used today by Christians. They’re not just old stories or history lessons—they’re part of our faith, too. Just like the verses in Jeremiah 29. There’s something to draw from it, something to gain, and it’s about more than having a hopeful future.
God made this promise to the Israelites—you’re right. And we can hold onto that promise, too. But let’s dig deeper than this one popular verse. We need to know its context.
- Israelites were being disobedient, partaking in cannibalism, worshiping idols, etc. (shocker…)
- God sends Jeremiah to warn them against their disobedience
- They don’t listen (…another shocker)
- God delivers them into the hands of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon
- Hananiah, a false prophet, tells the Jews their bondage would end in two years and everything would be hunky dorey
- Jeremiah calls Hananiah out as a liar and predicts his death
- The Lord tells Jeremiah to prophesy to the captives
And now we’re in chapter 29.
Tens of thousands of Jews were taken captive, ripped from their homelands, watched their homes and temples be ransacked, marched somewhere around 800 miles to Babylon, and were humiliated in the new, foreign city they had to live in.
And yeah, God gives them Jeremiah 29:11, but he also gives them 11 verses before that. Verses that essentially say, “In this valley, this foreign place I’ve put you…live well. Bear fruit.” God tells them to build houses and live in them, to bear children and raise them up, to plant gardens and live their lives and multiply their presence in Babylon. He tells them to find peace in their present circumstances. Then God tells them that He will deliver them after seventy years. SEVENTY YEARS they have to wait. And then comes verse 11. Then come even more verses. Verses where God reminds the Israelites that they need to seek Him, to pray, to search for Him with all (not just part) of their hearts. And then He promises that He will be found.
It’s a sober picture, and not one we like to paint. We want instant gratification. We want God to move immediately. How long will it take us to realize that God’s timetable doesn’t work based on the deadlines we demand?
The truth about Jeremiah 29:11 is still beautiful. God does know the plans He has for us. We can rest assured that we have a hope and a future. But for now, or maybe later, when the storm comes and you’re stuck in whatever Babylon has found your life, don’t give up. Plant a garden that bears fruit. Find peace in the midst of the struggle, financial difficulties, revoked scholarships, homesickness, health problems, depression. Seek the Lord with all your heart. He promised you that He’ll be found.
See, Jeremiah 29:11 isn’t a sunshine verse. Its promises are still true for us, but more than looking for the silver lining or the dawning of a new day, it’s about being rooted in your faith when it would be easy to let yourself be blown away. It’s about pursuing a right heart with God and patiently waiting on His timing. It’s about finding peace in impossible circumstances. That’s the life we are called to. What an awesome testimony that would be.
Maybe your Babylon won’t last for seventy years. Maybe it’s only a few hours, a few days, but you are strong enough. Hold on for that future. Build a house. Thrive where it shouldn’t be possible, and when people ask you how you did it, point them to Christ.
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