Jeremiah 29:11 is in your Bible. It’s God’s Word for you and to you. But it’s also a letter from a long time ago written to someone else. God recorded their experience to tell you about himself. He wants you to know him better through their experience.
The recipients of this letter were exiles, Jews displaced from their homeland. The superpower Babylon conquered Israel and took these Jews captive. This was no accident and God sent prophets like Jeremiah to warn the Israelites what would happen if they continued to rebel against God and break the covenant they made with him.
God sent hardship into these people’s lives as discipline for their rebellion against him. But, he wanted them to know that his discipline was not definitive of his thoughts towards them. He had plans to restore them to their land. But more importantly, he had plans to restore their relationship with him.
The verse that follows Jeremiah 29:11 says, “’Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘And will bring you back from captivity’” (v.12-14 NIV).
Do you hear God’s desire for his people? He doesn’t want to harm them. He doesn’t want their hurt. He wants their nearness. He wants them speaking to him and seeking him. Their exile was not a sign of his hatred towards them; it was God’s painful pursuit to win their hearts back to him.
The people receiving this letter were grieving the destruction of both their home and the discipline of God. But like a loving Father, God reminds them that his discipline is not his ultimate judgment. Instead it is his way to open their eyes to see how much they need God, so that they might cry out to him to restore their broken relationship.
We are all estranged from God by our rebellion against him, but his good plan and hope for us is that we might not be eternally separated from him. He knows he has made us for a close relationship with him, though we choose to love other things. So God sent us his Son, Jesus, into our world to bridge this gap. Jesus became human just like us. He suffered as our representative, bearing all our sin when he died on a cross, and was forsaken by God on our behalf.
Since the penalty for sin is death, Jesus broke the power of sin when he rose from the dead. Now we are free to be restored to God. God has a hope and a future of eternity with him awaiting everyone who trusts in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins.
God may send hard things into our lives. Jeremiah 29:11 isn’t a promise of a perfectly peachy life. It’s a reminder that in the hardest things that happen, God’s kind merciful character hasn’t changed and his hope for us is that we might know him better and draw near to him.