I hate this verse. No – that’s a bit strong. I struggle with this verse. And while many of you have this verse on t-shirts, bracelets and small magnets on the doors to your fridge, I get frustrated thinking about it!
Here’s my tension: If God has plans for me, plans that involve prosperity, hope, and protection, then what happened to God’s plans when my daughter, Makenzie died in a car accident a few years – moments – ago? This was her life verse and motivationally so! But what about the “not to harm you” part. What about that, God? And does that mean that I can goof up and step out of God’s plan and then work to get back on His plan for me?
As you can tell, I’ve battled with this verse’s language-ing until I dug deeper into its context and its original Hebrew. I’ll spare you a theological treatise, but a better translation of Jeremiah 29:11 comes in the King James Version. It reads,
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
Doesn’t that change the “plans” part? Here’s what this verse is actually saying. It does not say that God has an individual plan for your life – like a blueprint of every moment you spend on the timeline of this earth. The Bible is clear that He does have a purpose for your life but not necessarily a specific plan. The purpose about which God talks is for you to know Jesus and to grow to be more like Him in character and relationship. God’s purpose for you is not based on what you do but moreso who you are.
That means that once you know that your purpose is to love God and love others, then the adventure is discovering how that purpose plays out in your life. You are freed up to figure out how you are wired, develop those talents and gifts, and then deploy them into the lives of people around you. Part of that means that you can actually do things that you enjoy! What a concept!
Listen, God doesn’t care what you do for a career – whether you should be an architect, doctor, teacher or pastor. He doesn’t care what parking space you choose or which outfit you should wear today. If it doesn’t lead you or others to sin, and if it is a wise decision, do whatever you want! Generally, God does not have a detailed plan for your life.
So what does this verse mean then? Stay Tuned …