Do you know the context in which the Lord speaks this promise? I believe thousands of North American Christians are completely unfamiliar with the context of this promise. If they knew it, it would either fill them with more faith, or it would no longer be their most favourite verse in the Bible.
It is true, God’s heart towards you is good. There is no evil intent in Him regarding you. He was willing to give of Himself so we could live. And He desires for you to trust Him in that. And so He gives us this promise.
For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11 NLT
And so we claim this promise, which is good. It was intended to be claimed by us. It is just that we claim it with false expectations. We believe that this means that if we have faith and truly believe this verse, life will get easy and fulfilling and rich right away.
But that expectation takes this verse completely out of context. Did you know that God gives this promise to the Children of Israel AS He is sending them into 70 years of exile? Yep, that is right. They are just starting 70 years in a foreign land, a land that is not the land of promise, and God assures them that He knows the plan He has for them.
That the plan He has for them is good! That the plan He has for them is that of a great future, that of hope. They are supposed to remember that in the time where they are most likely to doubt God’s heart towards them.
He is saying that all this stuff is happening to them BECAUSE His plan is good. He is wanting them to repent! To grow in faith! He is telling them that He is not punishing them just because He is mad at them, but because His heart towards them is good. His heart towards them is of hope. Does that change your perspective?
For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. You will find me when you seek me, if you look for me in earnest. Jeremiah 29:11-13 NLT
When we read the verse from that perspective, then our faith can grow even in times when things don’t go according to the plan. God has your best interest at heart. It may not feel like that now, but you can trust Him on that. He takes no delight in disciplining his sons and daughters. He does it because He desires a greater future for them.
I love this verse. Probably not my favourite, but I still love it. But it no longer condemns me with a guilt-trip that my faith must be too small. (Which by the way it still is.) I love it because I realize that even when my faith is too small, God will remind me that I can trust. And I love it because even when God needs to discipline me, He assures me He isn’t doing it because He has evil intent towards me.
God is love. And He is gracious, and loving, and patient towards me. He promised the children of Israel that He would be with them even though they weren’t always faithful to Him, their God who had made a covenant with them. God is trustworthy. I still need to remind myself of that a lot!