Whenever I’m in a conversation with a Christian, it’s common for me to ask them what their favorite verse or passage of the Bible is. Hands down, the most often cited verse is Jeremiah 29:11 –
“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.” (NIV)
It’s a wonderful verse. Yet, there is a distinct situation and context surrounding that verse about the future. The verse is very much rooted in the present. The nation of Judah had been taken into captivity to Babylon. Understandably, the people were longing to go back home; they didn’t want to be in Babylon.
So, Jeremiah (who remained in Judah) sent them a letter, and warned them to not listen to false prophets who would give them an easy answer about getting out of Babylon quickly. Instead, he told them to make a good life for themselves in their captive land. He essentially told them to “bloom where you are planted.”
God said to the captives through Jeremiah the prophet:
“Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (NIV)
Another version says this in verse 7: “Pray for peace in Babylonia and work hard to make it prosperous. The more successful that nation is, the better off you will be.” (CEV)
Verse 11 only has solid meaning for us today when we:
· understand that we are to work hard right where we are in a place we don’t want to be
· pray for that place and its people and welfare
· thrive in our presenthard circumstance.
Then, we can look to a bright future. Our present sufferings do not compare to what glory is coming. But that occurs only if we persevere and find ways of flourishing right where we are today. How will you thrive in the place God has you right now?
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought me in safety to this new day. Preserve with your mighty power so that I might not just wish for a different today and are not able to see what you have for me in this place. May I not be overcome by adversity, but in all things direct me to the fulfilling of your purposes; through Jesus Christ, my Lord in the strength of the Holy Spirit. Amen.