For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11
Many of us are in a season of change. Our church is seeking a new pastor. It’s the beginning of a new school year. This is definitely a time of transition for me: I’m a new member of the church council, and I’m just heading back to work on campus after a year of sabbatical. I’m one of those weirdos who tends to really like change—at least temporary or low-stakes change. I think that’s partly because God’s steadfastness and ever-presence creates a safe context for change. And that’s true even (or especially) for transitions I may not expect or want.
Times of uncertainty and change may bring to mind the coffee-mugs-and-inspirational-posters verse from Jeremiah about God’s plans: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). It’s true that this passage has been misunderstood by many people to mean that God has designed a pleasurable future immediately ahead for individual Christians. But considering the verse in context, I actually find it more comforting (if not exactly what I might choose). That’s because many Christians’ lives don’t seem very prosperous, and our uncertain future may not quickly resolve into a prosperous present. So if this verse doesn’t imply our lives should be all roses and rainbows, then perhaps this verse is applicable in some way for our real lives as they actually are—we who are embarking on a time of change and uncertainties.
In this passage, God was speaking to the people of Israel collectively about His plan for them as His people. They were in exile in Babylon, and He goes on to tell them they’ll remain there for 70 years. (That rather puts the timeline of our transition and call process into perspective!) During that time of exile, He calls them to flourish where they are, to pray for their captors, and to draw their hope from the certainty that God’s plan will prevail and that it will bring forth good for His people.
Facing what promises to be a lengthy transition from an incomplete present to a more settled future, we may want to rush through and get on the other side of the transition as fast as possible. (At least, I can feel that way; I describe myself as a “destination” person, not a “journey” person.) But in reflecting on this verse, I see its gentle counsel to slow down, to really be faithful and intentional in working through the transition process before we even begin the work of the call committee. This is a time for us to draw together, to delve into our past, and to prayerfully reflect upon what forms God’s future hope may take at Prince of Peace. I confess that I’ve been worried about what the future will look like for us and whom we may find to join and to pastor our little flock. But I’ve been drawing comfort from the certainty that God has a collective plan for us that He’ll carry forth according to His own timetable. I’m beginning to recognize that this time of transition isn’t something to push through as quickly as possible nor to passively sit through until it’s finally over. Rather, it’s a rich opportunity to draw closer to each other and to Him
This blog is run by the council members of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Logan, UT. For more information, check out our church's website at princeopeace.org.