(Or WHY I THINK WE SHOULD RETIRE JEREMIAH 29:11)
So, fair warning, this one may step on some toes.
What is God’s plan for my life? If I’m being honest, I have to admit I have this idea that God owes me this amazing, fulfilling, awesome life with just a smattering of tough times which neatly resolve into a beautiful happy ending. After all, God loves me and has a wonderful plan for my life. The proof? Jeremiah 29:11, of course!
Don’t get me wrong, I love this verse – it was my high school grad theme and I have it on my office door! – but I’m wondering if we need to ‘retire’ it. Why? I believe pulling out this single verse causes major problems. Huh? We tell young graduates (and ourselves!) that God’s plan for them is that they won’t be harmed and that they will prosper. We set them (and yes, ourselves!) up to question anything that happens which seems harmful, or doesn’t fall into our definition of prospering.
God gave us the entire Bible, not just the palatable parts. Which means, we need to read it all to really get what God is saying. No one story sums up everything God chooses to reveal about Himself. No one verse gives us everything we need to know about living for Him. I am guilty of focusing on the stories, verses, definitions, characteristics of God that match up with my needs. Then, in those times when life isn’t going my way, when I don’t seem to be prospering, well, I get confused, angry, disappointed.
Through the Bible we can see a single overarching story woven through all the smaller ones. What is the focus of that story? Nope, not man’s redemption. Not how much God loves us. All of that is absolutely there! But, the focus of the Bible is God. It is God’s plan, God’s purpose, God’s glory. The plan for my life is a part of that bigger plan. God’s plan for my life is that He is glorified. It’s that simple.
Oh, yeah, glory. We love glory! Glory means eloquent words which always lead sinners to Christ. Glory means singing so beautifully it brings crowds to tears. Living a comfortable life which shows the world the advantages of loving God. Glory means… putting hands on leprous skin. Having no home, no place to lay one’s head. Being despised, rejected, beaten, crucified.
I’m not proposing we start writing Isaiah 53 on grad cards! What I am suggesting is that we stop pulling out a single verse to match our image of God’s wonderful plans for our lives. Instead let’s commit to doing the harder, slower work of digging into all of His Word. I think we’ll find that yes, in fact, God’s plans are not to harm us, and to prosper us. But, I think we’ll gain a better understanding of what God’s definitions of words like harm, prosper, plan and glory truly are!
Where to start? Maybe read all of Jeremiah 29. Read the chapters around it. Be reminded that the reason the Jews were in exile, needing comfort was that they had sinned and stopped loving God with all their hearts. Taken in context, verse 11 is so much more beautiful and hope-filled than simply my little life-plan! Praise God, He is not limited by my small vision. May I live all of my life for all of His glory, the parts I like, and perhaps even more, the parts I don’t yet understand!!