“The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” – Isaiah 29:11

If you compared your life to a football game, what would it look like? Would you be in the first or second half? Or, are you closer to the two minute warning? Have you been calling your own plays or are you relying on others to help you make the calls? What’s the score? Are you ahead or behind? Are you using your strengths to exploit the opponent’s weakness? What are you going to do differently with the time you have remaining? Do you have a game plan or are you calling audibles at the line of scrimmage?

As followers of Jesus Christ, we constantly are working to be in tune with God and listen for His “game plan” for our lives. Jeremiah 29:11 seems to outline the game plan for Christ followers: “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.”  We often read Jeremiah 29 like it is good news, plain and simple. But when we look at verse 11 in the context of the entire chapter of Jeremiah, we find that it is not that plain or simple. 

God was talking through the prophet Jeremiah to the Israelites, who, after years of rebellion against God, were captives in Babylon. If you read the first 10 verses in Jeremiah, you will discover that God was preparing His people to be there for 70 years. Reading those first ten verses will change your perspective on verse 11. Those verses that lead up to the more famous verse do not promise that everything will turn up roses. That life will be perfect and that you will thrive. Other Biblical passages remind us that this is not the case. We can read in 2 Timothy 3:12 how everyone who wants to live a godly life will be persecuted. We can turn to John 16:33, where we are encouraged to take heart, despite trouble, because Jesus already won.

Jeremiah 29:11 can be one of the most misused promises in the whole Bible. If taken out of context, the verse can make God sound like an ATM or a vending machine rather than our creator and savior. It’s noteworthy that God speaks in Jeremiah 29:13–14 and says, “If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.”   Restoration is directly tied to being in a right relationship with God. And being in right a relationship results when “you look for me wholeheartedly.”

There are many ways to keep in check our subtle tendencies to twist God’s promises and plans. One way to reduce that possibility is to read the Bible with a greater sensitivity to context. But perhaps the most important way, however, is it to recommit ourselves to seeking God. Seeking God will not always result in fixes for life’s problems. It will cause us to realize we live within a much bigger story—one where God’s plan is far superior to the one we envision for our life.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why do we make plans? So we can know what is going to happen? So we can be prepared?  So life will be easier?
  2. How do you feel when everything goes as planned? Satisfied? In control? Like I accomplished something good?
  3. How do you feel when things don’t go as planned? Frustrated? Totally helpless? It doesn’t bother me too much?
  4. What role does God have in your plans?