Jeremiah 29:11 is a most beloved passage of Scripture. “For I know the plans I have for you. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope” (NLT).
Ah, the promises of God. We love them, don’t we? We grab hold of them. We quote them to one another. They are encouragement for our lives when we desperately need it.
But what do we do when the word we are getting from God feels anything but encouraging?
If we back up in Jeremiah 29 and read the passage before the promise, we find something quite different.
Here is what God said in verses 4-8:
The Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, sends this message to all the captives He has exiled to Babylon from Jerusalem: Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food you produce. Marry, and have children. Then find spouses for them, and have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! And work for the peace and prosperity of Babylon. Pray to the Lord for that city where you are held captive, for if Babylon has peace, so will you.
In verse 10, He tells them, “The truth is that you will be in Babylon for seventy years.”
Your city has been invaded by the enemy. You’ve been violently ripped from your home and carried off to a distant land. You’ve been made to live in captivity. The security you’ve known your entire life has instantly vanished.
And God says, “Take off your coat and sit a spell.”
Umm … Excuse me, God? I’m pretty sure I didn’t hear You right.
Oh, but you did.
Many times we find ourselves in situations like this. Not captivity, but far less than ideal circumstances that make us feel completely trapped. We’re not where we thought we’d be at this stage of life. We are single but wish to be married. We are in a job we loathe. We don’t have the friends or social opportunities we desire. We struggle as single parents trying to be everything our children need us to be. We are resolved in optimism and then crushed by despair. We cringe as the weight of hopelessness wrestles with the expectancy of a bright side.
Such are the seasons of life.
So how do we respond to the pit we are in while we wait for the promise?
Know that you are never alone.
God will go with you. He will go before you and make a way even where there is no way. In Deuteronomy 31:6 (NLT), Moses said to Israel, “Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid, and do not panic. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”
Trust God in this.
Whatever “this” is for you, trust Him in it. Trust breeds peace. God’s promises hold true, and His Word will accomplish what He intends. He told the Israelites to pray for the peace of Babylon. God promises peace within your circumstance. He is not waiting for you outside the storm; He’s in it with you! And where He is, there is peace. It doesn’t matter how deep the water is; He can walk on it, and so can you when you keep your eyes where they belong. Trust Him in this!
Surrender to God daily.
When your heart is in a funk, it’s not the time to pull away from God but to dive deeper into Him. Surrender doesn’t mean you give up; oftentimes it means you fight. Run after and fight for all that God has for you, and don’t let the enemy steal from you. Listen for God’s voice daily. Focus on Him above your circumstance, and surrender to Him even when you don’t feel like it.
Realize the opportunity the pit brings.
Experience is a great teacher! God has taught me a lot during difficult times, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. Learning how to run to God, rest in His arms, cry on His shoulder and really hear His voice has made me a better me.
Know that this is not the end.
God had a plan to bring the Israelites home. Jeremiah 29:12-14 (NLT) says:
In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for Me in earnest, you will find Me when you seek Me. I will be found by you. I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and bring you home again to your own land.
God is good, and He is faithful. He is right here waiting to redeem and restore. We must seek Him first and position our hearts to receive.
Don’t forget who you are.
Your circumstance does not determine your identity. Living for a time in Babylon did not make the Israelites Babylonians. They were still Israelites, children of the most high God, chosen by Him to be His own. Your identity is solid in Christ whether you are walking on sunshine or knee deep in a bucket of muck.
You are God’s masterpiece, created anew in Christ, so that you can do the good things He planned for you long ago. — Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)
God desires relationship with us. He will do what He must to accomplish His ultimate goal — to capture our hearts! In Jeremiah 24:7 (NLT), God said, “I will give them hearts that will recognize Me as the Lord. They will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me wholeheartedly.”
Jesus fought hard for us. He made the ultimate sacrifice to win us back from the enemy, to free us from captivity and to impart to us our true identity. In our best and worst times, let’s run hard after all His death and resurrection bring to our lives.
Let’s live like we are free!