This is such an encouraging verse. By many it is often quoted, well loved, and poorly understood. Yes, the message of this verse is powerful in it’s self as a stand alone statement, however the context brings a far greater (and many times more applicable) message to light.
You see, this was not some random promise of God’s good will towards people and assurance to bring about a happy ending for them. In it’s entirety, it was a word about a difficult and hurtful season these people were entering into.
Understand that the context here is that God was allowing the Israelites to be taken into Babylonian captivity, something that would seem to be a really bad thing. To the Israelites, this meant being overcome by their enemies and placed in an uncomfortable, unpleasant, and unfamiliar environment. This would feel, to the carnal mind like God had turned His back on them and did not see their plight. We’ve all felt like that at times. We’ve cried out to God asking why He has allowed us to be brought into and remain in, or even abandoned us to a situation that seems so unfair and hopeless. But just like the context of this scripture, it was not hopeless and it was not without cause or purpose. The crying out part is key.
“Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”- Jeremiah 29:12-13
In the desperation of our situation, our time of uncertainty, our defeat or oppression, our captivity, we press through to God in prayer in ways that we never would have or even could have, had we been left in our comfort zone, clinging to self will, self dependency, and disobedience.
The true context of the beloved Jeremiah 29:11 verse is that of hardship with purpose, coupled with promise, and followed by submission to the conditions for receiving that promise. As we continue to read we begin to see that through this uncomfortable situation, as the desperation of it forced the Israelites into prayer, seeking, and a true deep relationship with God, they began to serve God mightily in ways that they otherwise would not have been pushed to attain, all while being protected from the destruction that they would have faced had they been left as they were, in the comfort of their error and sin.
“And I will be found of you, saith the Lord: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the Lord; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive. Because ye have said, The Lord hath raised us up prophets in Babylon; Know that thus saith the Lord of the king that sitteth upon the throne of David, and of all the people that dwelleth in this city, and of your brethren that are not gone forth with you into captivity; Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Behold, I will send upon them the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, and will make them like vile figs, that cannot be eaten, they are so evil.” – Jeremiah 29:14-17
You can now see that God allowed this captivity to come upon them because He loved them so and desired to not only redeem them into true relationship with Himself but also to protect and deliver them from the wickedness and danger of where they were (a place of spiritual death, though they did not realize it), all while furthering their spiritual growth, moving them into their callings. Because the hardships caused them to seek God, put their full trust and service in Him, and even became His prophets in this place of hardship and captivity, God blessed them and even blessed others through them. At last, when all was complete, He fulfilled the promise and brought them home stronger then they left.
So when we hear or read “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” What God was really saying is “I know what I am doing and even if you think that I have abandoned you or turned on you in the midst of your trials, hardships, heartaches, uncomfortable and unpleasant situations, the truth is that I am truly for you in this and not against you. All that I am doing is to bring you to the end that I have planned for you, and it is good.”
You see, sometimes we need a little shaking to wake us up from our spiritual slumber. Don’t loose heart and God will raise you up a prophet in the midst of your Babylon. Know that when we otherwise would not rise to the potential God has placed in us, He allows us to be overcome by our enemies for a season knowing that the desperation of the situation causes activation. It will not last forever and God is in control. If you seek and trust God, He will bring you through it stronger then you went into it. Sometimes your biggest blessings come through trial and tears, and your greatest growth is often accompanied by growing pains. Don’t give up, seek God and trust, and your happy ending will surely come every time. With God, if you don’t quit, you will win, because:
“When a man’s ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.” – Proverbs 16:7