“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.” – Jeremiah 29:11
In the middle of suffering, in the middle of situations when we wonder where God is or what God is doing, God says, “I have good plans for you, plans for your welfare.” In some translations it says, “plans to prosper you.”
But the word that’s translated “prosper” in those translations is the same word that’s used for “welfare” a few verses earlier (v. 7). It’s the Hebrew word shalom, which means all-encompassing peace. This is God saying, “Amidst your turmoil, I have plans for your peace. Amidst your heartache and pain, know that I am plotting for your good.”
Now the key for us here is the same thing that was key for God’s people in Jeremiah’s day. Don’t believe in false hope. Don’t believe people who tell you that God will keep you from all suffering or that God will bring you out of suffering really quickly. That’s false hope. It abounded in Jeremiah’s day and it is abounding today. It was in the mouths of prophets then and it’s in the mouths of preachers today all across our country.
Please hear me loud and clear. Many of the fastest-growing churches in our country today are built on this false hope. There’s a church that draws tens of thousands of people, and they say explicitly, “It is God’s will for every believer to become whole, healthy, and successful in every area of life.” They claim that on the cross, Jesus bought for us, not just spiritual provision, but physical and financial provision. So this is not just “out there” teaching. This is mainstream, common teaching that is drawing supposedly Christian crowds.
This is not just here in the United States; it’s happening all around the world. Many of the fastest growing, supposedly Christian churches and movements, as well as best-selling, supposedly Christian books, are built on teaching that says, “God wills for you to be healthy, wealthy, and prosperous in this world. God wills to keep you from all suffering, if only you will trust Him and have faith in Him. If, by chance, for some reason, you find yourself in suffering—maybe even because of a lack of faith—if you will only return to God in faith, your suffering will end in a short time. Believe this. Claim this. Trust that prosperity is coming. Tell yourself this.”
These people are essentially evoking the “the power of positive thinking.” They may say something like, “Have faith in Jeremiah 29:11. God says, ‘I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you.’ God wills to prosper you financially, physically, and otherwise, so if you’re suffering right now, you need to believe that prosperity is coming soon, because that’s what Jeremiah 29:11 teaches, right?”
No, in reality Jeremiah 29:11 teaches the exact opposite. God’s people were in exile according to God’s will, and according to God’s word, their suffering in exile was not coming to an end anytime soon.
Now you might think, “I like the other message better.” That is exactly what the people in Jeremiah’s day were thinking. That’s why they were believing these false prophets. God is saying to us right now the exact same thing He was saying to them then: “Don’t believe it. Don’t put your hope in crowd-pleasing words.” Why? Because they’re not from God. Jeremiah, the prophet who is speaking the word of God, says, “Here is true hope.” Your hope is not that God wills to keep you from all suffering. That’s not at all what Jeremiah 29:11 teaches. Jeremiah 29:11 teaches that God wills to bring you through all suffering.