There was a time when if you asked an Evangelical Christian for their favourite Bible verse the answer John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” would come high, if not top, of the list. But it changed, the favourite verse changes to Jeremiah 29:11, “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,” became the favourite verse. How did this happen? I blame the internet.
Above is a typical meme using Jeremiah 29:11. Images like this are very common with lazy Christians. If they have the technology to see the meme they have the technology to check up on the context. John 3:16 has a condition,it is for those who believe in God’s Son. Jeremiah 29:11 taken on its own has no such context, it is just a verse that gives the warm fuzzy feelings that lazy Christians like, which is why I have included the next two verses, and the context below.
11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare [or peace] and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.Jeremiah 29:11-13 ESV UK
The immediate context is that the promise of God’s blessing is for those who call upon God, pray and seek God with all their heart. But there is a further context, the verse is for those about to go into exile in Babylon. As it had already been prophesied that the exile would be for 70 years, this verse is for people who would be exiled and never return to their homeland. This is a verse for those about to go into a traumatic experience or in the middle of their trauma. So I ask those who keep using Jeremiah 29:11 out of context, please can you tell me how God has been with you in your trauma.
This short series of blog posts is titled, Who does God say I am. So here is what I have learned about God through my trauma. I am disabled. I was hit by a car when cycling home from work and as a consequence walk with crutches. The lazy Christians I mentioned tried to blame me for my trauma, or claim I did not have faith in God as I wan’t healed when they prayed (that God works in disabled people was not even on their horizon). This promise of God’s is for people who will not appear to be doing well. The Holy Spirit lives in us too, so God can work both in us and through us too. It is not all about a few nice comfy words to make you feel good, but even where the words of God are not very comforting, such as Jeremiah 29:11 when taken in context, God has a plan, to be with us in our suffering.
Jeremiah 29:11 is not a promise for every one of us, but it is a statement about a great loving God. God does not want a relationship with people only when they are happy and have warm fuzzy feelings. God wants a relationship with us through all that life, to share our joys but also be with us through those parts of life we’d rather not talk about. When Jesus said he would be with us to the end of the age he meant it, through everything.
If you have a story of God being with you in your suffering I’d love to hear it.