We have lived in our house just over six years and shortly after we moved in, we put up a vinyl wall decal of one of my favorite verses at the time: Jeremiah 29:11. “For I know the plans for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
This verse hangs on a wall at the bottom of our stairwell, it is one of the very first things you see in our home when we open our front door.
This verse is one I have shared over and over with my children- either word for word or in a general message of “God loves you. He wants you to succeed and prosper. You are special. He has a plan for your life.”
As I thought about all of the things going on in our world today, I looked at that verse on the wall and decided I had to rip it off. Right that instant. It doesn’t seem fitting with all of the evil and injustice in this fallen world of ours.
Brothers and sisters in Christ being executed on a daily basis in the Middle East because they choose to declare allegiance to Jesus.
People being shamed, bullied, stereotyped, and even killed because of the color of their skin.
Violence against those who have dedicated their lives to protect ours.
Thousands upon thousands of precious babies losing their lives every single day, before they are even given an opportunity to breathe, simply because they are seen as an “inconvenience”.
Lies, deceit, and words of hatred spewing from the mouths of the people who are supposed to lead us.
People around the world displaced from their homes and fearing they will lose their lives in the midst of violence.
Family losing loved ones, struggling with answers to their questions.
Shootings, death, violence every. freaking. day.
It is just too much and there is no end in sight. We live in a broken, broken world.
Although I told my husband and my kids that I removed the scripture from the wall because I want to repaint (which is true), my grief and reflections on this world is what prompted its expedited removal.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe God is still sovereign. I believe He still reigns. I believe God loves us. I believe the victory is His in the end. I believe He wants good for us, even if that good is only manifested in eternity.
But in the meantime, scriptures like this tend to paint a false hope…and a “prosperity gospel” that Jesus himself would surely contradict and condemn. I still believe in the divine inspiration of this scripture. I still believe it is included in the Bible for a reason and is applicable to us in an eternal sense. But I have also come to realize that this scripture is not a promise for me. It is not a promise for you. It’s time to stop claiming it as a life verse. I am not a Biblical scholar, but from my little bit of research (and reading the verse in context of the chapter) it was a promise spoken from God himself to Jeremiah to share with Israelites carried into exile in Babylon. Ultimately, God frees his people 70 years later just like He said he would.
Although the promise of Jeremiah 29:11 wasn’t necessarily intended for us, Jesus himself makes some promises to His disciples in the New Testament. And as present-day disciples who have received the Holy Spirit, these promises apply to us as well.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you will have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world.” -John 16:33
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” -John 15:18
“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” -Matthew 10:28
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” -Matthew 16: 24-25
These verses aren’t printed on graduation cards, we don’t often tell them to our children as encouragement for the road of life ahead. They aren’t happy and optimistic. Actually, they often make us wonder what on earth we signed up for when we chose to be followers of Jesus (or maybe that is just me). The time is coming (and has already come for many in this world) where being a follower of Jesus will cause us to lose our lives in one way or another. And if it doesn’t/hasn’t, maybe that is a reflection of its authenticity.
As much as I love the sentiment of Jeremiah 29:11, I do not want it to define my faith any longer. Our faith is not one of prosperity and promises of an earthly future. We are a broken people who need to know that hardships are part of our journey, whether we like it or not. And we are only guaranteed this very moment that we are breathing (James 4:14).
My 6-year old son was distraught as I removed this verse from the wall. He said, “Mommy, isn’t God’s Word more important than new paint?” I agreed wholeheartedly and promised I would be replacing it with a new verse very soon. The new verse will not be one that is a promise to someone else, however. The new verse will be one of resolve and action… words spoken by the mighty warrior Joshua near the end of his life to the people of Israel as a final call to action, of life and death nature:
“But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Let us not be naive about the trouble we face on this earth. The gods of wealth, violence, hatred, and division surround us. Let us arise as warriors willing to fight for the souls of each person on this Earth, armed with the weapons of Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and love.