What’s the meaning of your life verse? Jeremiah 29:11

Jer 29.11I don’t think this one quite edges out Philippians 4:13 for most notable life verse.  It may come in a close second, though.  I would guess the majority of you can quote it word for word.  I would also guess that 99% of the time it has been memorized in the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible.  Let’s say it together:

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.  Jeremiah 29:11  (NIV)

What a beautiful promise from God.  It offers an assurance for the future.  Whatever the circumstances today, God’s people can trust God to change their tomorrow.  It declares God’s intimate relationship to God’s people.  God isn’t leaving God’s people out to dry like a sheep among wolves.  God is intricately involved in creating a new future.  It brings a perspective of hope.

As much as I like this verse, I don’t think I like the NIV translation.  Here’s why:  our focus is drawn to two words.  Plans.  Prosper.  It’s like our mind is magnetically attracted to them.    And I’m afraid, a preoccupation with these two words messes with our interpretation.

Focused on the words “plans” and “prosper,” our tendency is to limit our understanding to me and my future.  Quickly, the verse is about God’s specific plan for my life and my success.  Taken to the extreme, we cherish this verse for the promise we think it makes about God laying out every plan for my life, such as which college I will go to, who I will marry, what career path I will follow, and how much success and wealth I will gain.

If I’m honest, I think this takes us way off the path of what the verse is really trying to say.  Check out at how different it reads in the New Revised Standard Version:

For surely, I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.  Jeremiah  29:11  (NRSV)

Reading just a couple chapters previous, we realize these are God’s words to a people who are hopeless.  They are in exile.  They’ve been completely stripped away from their homeland, their temple, and their king.  To make matters worse, God instructs the people to serve King Nebechadnezzar of Babylon (27:6-7).  And if they don’t serve him, then God “will punish that nation with the sword, with famine, and with pestilence, says the LORD, until I have completed its destruction by his hand” (27:8).  God repeats this three times in chapter 27 alone.

Then, God warns the people to ignore the promises given by prophets, diviners, or any other religious person (27:9).  God says they will try to convince the people to give up obedience to King Nebechadnezzar by telling lies.  If it were me, I imagine I would gladly welcome a word that says I don’t need to obey the king who stole my life.  The lie would sound better than reality, to me.  But, God implores them to trust God’s words.

Then, in Jeremiah 29:7 God’s words are given:  “seek the welfare of the city where I sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”  What???  God’s not promising to rescue them, right now?  God wants them to do what for the city that is holding them captive?  Tough words.

It’s like God is saying, “Trust me, I have everything under control.  I know your situation stinks, but I know what I’m doing.  I have your best interest in mind.”  God says, “For surely, I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”

So, maybe Jeremiah 29:11 isn’t about God’s specific day to day plan for you.  Instead, it is a message of hope for God’s people, including you and me.  God knows what’s best for us.  God will lead us in the direction of a new future.  The lies of this world, though they may sound good, will never get us there.

 

What are your thoughts on Jeremiah 29:11?

 

 

10 thoughts on “What’s the meaning of your life verse? Jeremiah 29:11

  1. I love this and needed it so badly today… thanks again for another great post.

    It’s like God is saying, “Trust me, I have everything under control. I know your situation stinks, but I know what I’m doing. I have your best interest in mind.” God says, “For surely, I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”

  2. Interesting that I came across your article today after having these same thoughts on this particular scripture. I like the verse, but it’s one of those that I’ve grown tired of hearing people quote because it seems like the intent of what God is saying to His children has been diminished. It’s our modern day mantra for “name it and claim it!” Thanks for articulating what I’ve been thinking all along. Now the verse means something again…to give me hope in the only one true living God! Peace and blessings in Christ!

    • Naomi, it is encouraging to hear this post resonated with what you’ve been thinking. Like you, I grew weary of the verse being used by so many around me. It can almost be used like a magic formula. I am so grateful to hear the post has revived this verse for you with new meaning. I’m curious how you came across this post? I’m not sure when I originally posted it, but I know it has been awhile. It would great to know any other verses you share similar feelings about, if any. I would enjoy the opportunity to engage some of the struggles we experience with our culture’s use of the Bible. Thank you for reading.

      • Hi Coy, Thanks for responding! How I found your blog was I started off looking for info on the prayer life of everyone involved in The Book of Ruth. I couldn’t remember any particular prayers directed to God in this book, and I thought maybe they weren’t needed because His plan was unstoppable! In one article I found online the writer pointed out that basically everyone involved “prayed without ceasing,” and that their live’s were “stitched-with-prayer.” After rereading this book I saw the subtlety of their prayer life. I thought how did I forget this! lol Their prayers consisted mainly of blessings for others and if the Lord “willed it.” No specific supposedly fail-proof prayer like Jeremiah 29:11! which I’ve always felt like was taken out of context or misused. This then led me to search for other interpretations of Jeremiah 29:11 which led me to your blog!

        Then I started comparing Jeremiah 29:11 to my life. It didn’t feel like that verse was coming true for me because of the many tragic events and circumstances of late. I guess I thought if there were “specific” prayers for blessings in The Book of Ruth and I prayed them then I would reap some level of blessings too because I’m a widow as well. But after rereading about Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz, I was then convicted by the Holy Spirit of my shallowness for a specific prayer to bless me like so many other believers who claim Jeremiah 29:11 to be their life verse. But, I guess I can say I did receive a blessing from this experience in spite of my intent! I understand God can and does bless His children when it serves His purpose whether or not we pray certain prayers, but I also think a believer’s prayer requests should be about God’s will and desire for our lives than to be like King Solomon with all of his riches and earthly glory! I can always trust that the Lord knows what’s best for me and my family even when I don’t get the answer I was wanting. Sometimes I have to learn this by the way of my pointless search for a prayer that will give me earthly blessings. Sometimes He doesn’t remove the trouble like in Jeremiah, but will walk along with us in all circumstances of life giving grace and tender mercies when we cry out to Him. As believers it’s about needing and leaning on Him, not about our vain efforts using certain prayers. He wants to humble us to brokenness so we look up, not within. I like the verse “It is good for me that I have been afflicted;that I may learn your statutes” Psalm 119:71 and “For He wounds, but he binds up;he smites, but his hands heal.” Job 5:18. I haven’t heard those verses being touted as life verses! ;)

        Another Bible verse or prayer that I’ve always thought had been abused was 1 Chronicles 4:10, the prayer of Jabez. I’ve noticed that some denominations like to bring attention to certain Bible verses that will “bless.” I guess to gain recognition and possibly more donations? Just my opinion. Peace and blessings in Christ, Naomi

        • Wow, it’s crazy to think an online search could lead you to this post. The internet certainly has opened new possibilities for learning. I like what you wrote, that prayer is about God walking “along with us in all circumstances of life giving grace and tender mercies.” Thank you for sharing. I haven’t spent much time understanding the prayer of Jabez, so maybe I will look into popular uses of 1 Chronicles of 4:10.

        • Naomi
          Thanks so much for your insightful perspective—very well-said. It is all about faith in God and trusting Him to take care of our needs including earthly needs. As I grew in my faith, I always tell Him to give me what is according to His will and plan, not according to what I want. We do not have a window into the future; and therefore, what we asked for might not be good for us. We were created in this world for a purpose and we are here to accomplish God’s purpose and plan.

          I have been a widow in my early 30s with a newborn and 3 yr old. I am now almost 61 and looking back, God has blessed me tremendously.

          God bless you all!

          • Thank you for sharing your comments with Naomi, Jen. It is great to see this dialogue.

      • I have been reading the bible, doing bible studies, attending services, etc. in an effort to grow my relationship with Jesus. I have very few bible verses stored to memory. I looked up 10 most memorized verses and Jeremiah 29:11 came up. After reading it, writing it, and saying it several times the thought came to mind, so what does it he verse actually mean? I Googled meaning of Jeremiah 29:11, and this site along with others came up on my search. Now I will do this as a practice with any of the verses that I commit to memory. My eyes and heart have been opened this morning to understand that it isn’t the worldly meaning of a verse that matters, it is what God intended the verse to mean. I know there is much to learn and I pray daily for God to open my heart and my eyes to see the things he wants me to know and to be able to hold on to his promises.

        • Caybre, it seems like you have been doing the right things to grow in your relationship to Jesus. It’s amazing to hear how a simple search for the “10 most memorized verses” gave you resources that are helpful to you. Glad to hear this post is one of them. Keep searching for God’s wisdom and you will find it. You are right, it is oftentimes much different than worldly meanings. Keep searching and growing.

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