If you’re remotely familiar with Scripture, or even if you’re not, you know about Jeremiah 29:11. You’ve probably passed it along to a friend in a crisis, texted it to someone who just lost their job, or maybe someone rattled it off to you during a pep talk.
“ ‘For I know the plans I have for you’, declares the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’ ”
Isn’t it interesting to read it in context, though? This nice, affirming verse comes in the middle of God telling the exiles: get comfortable. You are not going home for a long time. Spread out, plant gardens and grow your family. This was probably the last thing you’d want to hear after you’ve been kidnapped and dragged away from your home to a strange land. There’s more. Not only are the exiles told that they are going to set down roots and be there for seventy years, but God instructs them to “work for the peace and prosperity of the city” of Babylon. These people just attacked, conquered and imprisoned them. And now God is asking them to work towards their well-being.
Have you been in this spot before? Have you felt exiled to a certain job, living situation, city or relationship and you just want God to scoop you out of it, but instead he tells you to settle in? AND, in the meanwhile, do his work?
Never, in the Bible, have I read something that implies we are allowed to hide out and kick our feet up. Even prisoners. We are God’s people. His hands and feet. He wants us to grow fruit, work the soil, raise children and love people really, really well no matter where we are or what we’re doing. This is where the good stuff happens. When you engage, invest and work hard. Whining and hiding out, waiting to be rescued, is not what we’re called to.
Luckily, for Israel, their situation has a good ending:
“ ‘For I will bring you home again from distant lands, and your children will return from their exile. Israel will return to a life of peace and quiet, and no one will terrorize them. For I am with you and will save you,’ says the Lord.”
We have a great ending to our rescue story too, thanks to King Jesus who will permanently rescue us from our exile. But in the meanwhile, let’s seek the welfare of where we are.