“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11
I have a bit of a bone to pick with today’s verse. When I hear it spoken at weddings, baby showers, or plastered on graduation cards and gifts, I cringe a little on the inside.
Perhaps a story will help you understand. A little journey through faith.
I received the same verse from Jeremiah on a graduation gift I received upon completing graduate school. It sits on my desk at church, filled with paper clips. When I graduated I had hopes and excitement for the journey ahead like most graduates. I looked at that voice with only thoughts of success and prosperity in my future. Not of the true journey in the years to come.
I loved my job, but the first two years were painful. So much so that that verse in Jeremiah had been abandoned, and Exodus 14:13-14 took its place: But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” A far cry from that one listed on that gift.
I was delivered from these Egyptians to be taken on an even longer journey that would last a couple more years.
God knows I don’t like change. God knows I like to have a semblance of control in my life. I am not at all spontaneous. I am not a “Hey, let’s do this today” person. I do NOT like surprises. But it is the life-changing surprises that were a part of this journey for the past 2-3 years.
It started with my husband’s racing heartbeat and palpitations. He had mentioned it to me in September 2019, making an appointment to see a doctor. Having tests completed. Monitoring his rhythm for several weeks. Until one night, he ended up in the emergency room with a rhythm so high he shouldn’t have been alive.
We sat in the hospital room hearing things like “Vtach, pacemaker, to keep his heart beating, cardiac arrest.” I sat realizing he could die. These doctors had just told me, that if we didn’t do surgery, next time he could die. This was my first lesson in that hope for a future verse. Would I trust in this future when men and women were working on his body just to keep him living? Would I trust the one who gave these men and women this gift, and know He is in charge of the outcome?
Fear of the future was not going to change my circumstances. We were still here. This was still happening. And the other side of this would be good. It always had been.
The reality was this: The events prior to this stay had begun with a night that was painful and chaotic. It began in the midst of one of our ministry endeavors, that in turn set in motion a chain of misery and defeat. A chain of uncertainty that crushed vision, crushed purpose, and left me in my own form of exile for quite some time.
I poured myself into my work, because ministry was too hard, only to be furloughed for several months in 2020. And so began the cycle of more heartbreak. I loved my job. I missed my students. I had so many emotions, and no where for them to go. Here I was quarantined at home with people who had their own confusing emotions.
When I did go back to work, nothing was the same. Video screens were not the connections I so desired, and I absolutely hated it. But because my attempts to do ministry continued to fail, I continued to pour myself into the only thing I felt I could do “right.”
It was the denial of my moving forward to ordination that sent me over the edge. That sent me further into my own personal exile. I wanted to quit ministry altogether, because if I didn’t have all the knowledge I “should” have, what was the point? I spent the better portion of three months in darkness and at all out war with God. Cutting everything and even people off so I could work through the despair, and crawl back.
I did. And I know I am stronger and more resilient. More faithful because of it.
So, why did I share all that? Because…yes. God does promise a hope and a future, and this verse can provide a large amount of peace. But the reality is, God said these words through Jeremiah right before he sent them into a 70 year exile period. A period in which they were enslaved to evil and horrifying rulers.
This verse is a verse of hope. A promise from God to protect us, and provide us everything we need. But He isn’t promising that we won’t suffer. In the world we will have suffering. In our walks as Christians we will face many trials. We will have pain. Heartache. Loss. Hurt. God does not promise that we won’t endure those things-but He does promise that He will be with us through it all. He will not leave us in our defeat. Once the trial and suffering are endured, there is a future waiting just for us that He has ordained.
Our hope and our future. It may come after we suffer a great deal. But it will come. God promises it will come.