So, how many coffee mugs have this verse on them, eh?
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. -Jeremiah 29:11
It's a great verse, a very great verse. It comforts me, and I'm not being sarcastic.
But it's worth reading in context.
The context? It's something God said to the people who were heading into captivity. There were horrors before them. They were going to be torn away from their homeland. All through Jeremiah, God constantly warns the people of Israel not to believe the prophets who lie to them, promising them peace and prosperity.
This is not a verse promising immediate peace and prosperity.
It is a verse that promised that the Lord was in control of his people's future, and that he still intended to do good for them. They were still his people. He was not abandoning them. He would make a way through the horrors for them, as he had once made a way through the Red Sea.
I'll be honest and not sarcastic about this, too: this sort of Biblical meditation scares me. I don't want horrors, even if the Lord makes me a way through them.
But the true horror, the horror of horrors, is the idea of falling out of his hand. It is the idea of not being his people, and him not being my God.
And that is exactly what this passage reminds me: that the Lord does not abandon his own. He is faithful. He will be found by those who seek him. They will be his people, and he will be their God, and none can snatch them from his hand.
And I guess that's the lesson about reading verses in context that needs to be heard again and again: You might lose a facile comfort, but you'll gain a deeper one. Yes, this popular verse in Jeremiah does indeed promise that the Lord has good plans for us, plans that give us a hope and a future.
But the hope and the future is not some bread-and-circuses air-dream. It is not hope and a future that can be crushed by war or famine or hardship.
It is Himself. It is his own presence and goodness and peace.
And joy forevermore.
Peace of Christ to you,