God is good, all the time?
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
We love Jeremiah 29:11. It's one of the most beloved and commonly quoted verses in the Bible. Yet, we often interpret it apart from its context and miss the fullest meaning of it for our lives. When understood in its larger context, the entire passage of Jeremiah 29:4-14 points us towards the goodness of God and the importance of prayer in bringing about the fulfillment God’s purposes in our lives.
God’s plans and purposes for you are always good.
The initial meaning and principle of the promise is fairly straightforward. God’s plans and purposes for His people are good. His intentions are not to harm you, but to give you a future and hope. By His very nature, He cannot plan or do evil towards His people. The very fact that God has plans and a future for you exhibits His thoughtfulness and intentions toward you. Psalms 139:13 - 18 says, “How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand!” God cares about you and His purposes for you are good. But, how do we reconcile this verse with the fact that life isn’t always good?
God’s goodness is greater than your circumstances.
The goodness of God does not guarantee a pain free life of ease and worldly success. Jeremiah 29:4 tells us this word is addressed to Jewish exiles in Babylon. The exiles, hoping for a quick return to Jerusalem, receive a sobering message through the prophet Jeremiah. He tells them to build homes, plant gardens, get married, and seek the wellbeing of the city they’re now living in. In other words, “Settle in, you’re going to be here for a while!”. He promises to restore them in 70 years. This was not good news! This meant that for many of them a return to their homeland would not happen in their lifetime. Does this mean God’s purposes for them were not good?
Exile was not God’s purpose for Israel, but a consequence of their persistent pursuit of the ways of other nations. After multiple warnings, God essentially gives them what they want and allows them to be ruled by another nation. Yet in Jeremiah 29: 4 - 11 we see that God uses exile as a step towards restoration. We see His desire and instruction for them to flourish in the midst of exile, and His purpose for them to reflect the goodness of God by praying for and seeking the peace and prosperity of their city.
God’s good plans for you come to pass through prayer.
We cannot separate verse 11 from verse 12 - 14. Verse 11 gives us the promise, while verses 12 -14 tells us how that promise will be fulfilled. God’s plans and intentions for His people stated in verses 10-11 will be realized when His people pray and seek Him with their whole heart. The principle runs true in our own lives. Regardless of our circumstances, God wants to transform your life and use you to transform others. He has good plans and intentions towards you, but He invites you into cooperative relationship with Him. He fulfills His plans in, and through you when you partner with Him in prayer. Every move of God in history and in our lives is preceded by a movement of prayer.
May we grow in trust of God’s goodness regardless of immediate circumstance. May we seek God’s face wholeheartedly and see His best plans and purposes become a reality in our lives.