Do you know the most popular Old Testament scripture? According to Biblegateway, Jeremiah 29:11 reigns as the most frequently requested single verse. When considering the whole Bible, it comes in second, right after John 3:16. I think there’s a reason for this…
These words were spoken to the Jews when their destiny could hardly have seemed darker. Jerusalem had been completely destroyed and the people had been exiled to Babylon. Everything had perished, including their identity as a nation. Now captives in a foreign land, Jeremiah tells them to do something completely unorthodox, against all common sense and every fighting fiber of their being. He tells them to GIVE IN. To embrace their captivity…and even go so far as to pray for the prosperity of their captors!
He assures them that God still has a plan for their future. After seventy years of captivity they would return to their homeland, but arrive as a changed people. A purified nation who—because of those seventy years—would learn to call upon him and seek him with whole hearts, not with the half-hearted devotion they had become accustomed to.
Although today we often apply Jeremiah 29:11 to graduations, promotions and new beginnings, its significance as a beacon of trust in trying times should not be missed.
We all face those seasons in life where everything we hope for seems lost. Black holes of disappointment swallow our aspirations and at times drive us to the same kind of desperation the Israelites must have experienced as they sat by the rivers of Babylon and wept for their native soil (Psalm 137:1). Maybe God wants us, like Israel, to embrace our desperate state. Maybe it’s a despair that will deepen our search for him. Maybe our anguish will cause us not to take our sins so lightly. Maybe He wants us to give in.
To give in, not because our future holds nothing. But so it can hold everything….