Sometimes the enemy works really hard to cause us to question God’s character and promises and the value of His instructions to us, doesn’t he?
We saw this in the garden. We saw it in the wilderness with Jesus. We see it in our own lives all of the time.
“Did God really say that He would work all things together for good for His children? I mean, look at your circumstances…either He’s not keeping up His end of the bargain or you’re not really His child”, the enemy will whisper.
Man, he’s really good at causing us to doubt God and His word, isn’t he? We must know enough of God’s Word to be able to replace lies with Truth!
But you know, I’ve come to realize that sometimes Satan is just as content for us to know Bible verses, and believe God whole-heartedly about something He never said.
I imagine most of us wouldn’t have to look hard to find something lying around our house with Jeremiah 29:11 on it. Probably a gift given to us at graduation or another momentous life event. The implication here is usually that we are embarking on some new or unknown season of life, and should be encouraged and rest in the knowledge that God knows the plans He has for us and those plans are for our good and to bring about a bright hope and future for us.
For me, it’s a picture frame. It was a frame that was given to me by the man I would ultimately marry, but at the time was just dating. I have to admit, when I was gifted that frame, a part of me latched on to the shallow promise that my “hope and future” God was promising me would come through my marriage one day to this man of God. And so, of course, I immediately put a picture of the two of us together inside and gazed at it longingly, daydreaming of what it would be like to one day be married to him. As though me getting married to an amazing man was my ultimate hope and future.
It’s not so much that there’s not truth in the idea that this passage speaks of God’s plans for our lives and the goodness of those plans, it’s just that those plans are so much bigger than anything we can imagine.
For me, my limited scope of what those plans might entail meant a happily ever marriage. In other seasons of life it might have meant getting the right job or networking with just the right person to catapult an idea or ministry opportunity. For you it might have been something altogether different.
But that passage was speaking collectively to the people of Israel. And the hope and future it was referring to had nothing to do with the particulars of God providing the right job or the right spouse.
It wasn’t even a promise that many of the listeners at the time would get to see come to pass. God told the people He would deliver them from their oppression, but He also told them that it would be another 70 years before He would do so!
It was a promise of deliverance both from the physical oppression they were experiencing in exile, and a foreshadowing of the ultimate deliverance God would bring through Jesus, and the point was for the people to trust in the Lord in the meantime.
It’s not that God doesn’t care about whom we will marry or what job we will get. And it’s not that He’s not intricately involved in the details of our lives.
He does and He is!
But, when we try to apply promises like this one to the minutia of our lives we do ourselves a disservice. And when we use promises like this one to offer words of comfort to someone experiencing a painful situation, we do them a disservice as well. At least, if we do those things without casting them in the light of their context we do.
We take something that is meant to be massive and hugely encouraging to us (like God’s sovereign plan and the fact that our lives are part of such a bigger story) and we whittle it down to things that amount to chaff in the wind.
God did allow me to marry a Godly man and has used our marriage (good times and bad) over the years to teach us amazing things about Himself, and draw us each and as a couple closer to Him. But even as wonderful as my husband is, and as grateful as I am for our marriage, it is a small part of what God has used in my life to bring about His ultimate plans for me…it’s not the ultimate plan itself.
Had God allowed me to remain single and never marry, this promise would be no less true for me.
The enemy is thrilled for us to know the Bible but not really know it. If he can get us to hang our hats on flimsy promises taken out of context, then he can bring in seeds of discouragement and doubt when God doesn’t seem to hold up His end of the bargain.
So many times over the course of my life, the enemy has leveraged my surface-level knowledge and understanding of scriptures to cause me to question my faith, question God’s character, question my position and relationship with God…I could keep going.
But what I’ve found is that when I take the time to dig deeper into some of these passages that get lazily thrown around, I actually come away with a much more solidified faith, God’s character comes clearer into view, and I’m more secure in my position and relationship with God.
What does it mean, for example, when the Psalmist says to “delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart”? Was Paul referring to my health and fitness goals when he said “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”? Because that would be super helpful!
I encourage you to ask the Lord to show you where you may have been settling for a lesser interpretation of His word, and ask Him to be your teacher as you strive to know Him more and more!