Asterisks, Part One: A Future and a Hope*
No doubt you've seen asterisks (*) in print. They indicate that additional information has been omitted from the text, or at times, that the information given needs to be qualified in some way. When you see an asterisk attached to a word or phrase, you search to find the additional information so you can learn the "rest of the story."
When it comes to communicating truths about the Christian life, the need for asterisks are everywhere. Take today's Scripture, for example. This passage is often used to offer encouragement and hope to those who are experiencing crisis, trial and difficulty in life. It's a wonderful passage, with a message that is true!
Yet, an asterisk is required if we just leave the message isolated to verse 11. Looking at the entire chapter of Jeremiah 29, the context of verse 11 jumps out. It's part of a letter that Jeremiah wrote to captives of Judah who had been uprooted from their homes and exiled to Babylon. Jeremiah tells them to put down roots in Babylon, to pray and work for peace and prosperity. Next comes the clincher that can be paraphrased along the lines of, "Oh, and by the way, you're going to be captives here for 70 years, and God says that after that He'll bring you back home again." Then comes verse 11: "For I know the plans I have for you…"
For the vast majority of people who would have read or heard the message of the letter, the bottom line was they would live and die as captives in a foreign land. I can imagine that many wondered how this could possibly be considered a good plan.
Still, that's what God said. It was just a longer-term view: God's good plans for a future and hope were more for the generation that would follow after the exiles, and less for the individuals who read the letter.
Many of us live out our lives in this same context. We face crisis, difficulties and trials that we don't understand. We wonder what we've done to deserve them. Sometimes, we can't resolve them. We question God, asking Him why He allows us to live through a season or lifetime of challenge. And, we read, "For I know the plans I have for you…"
Although we may never see our life situations change drastically, how we respond to our challenges (remaining faithful to God and trusting Him day-by-day) matters! If we believe in the message of Jeremiah 29:11, we'll persevere despite the challenges, and we'll influence those who will follow after us, for it will be they who will ultimately reap the benefit of receiving the future and hope that God promises.
I can handle that. How about you?
- When have you questioned whether or not God's plans for you were good? How were these questions resolved?
- Read Philippians 4:19. How can this verse bring you hope in the midst of difficult circumstances?
Hebrews 11:35-40, 12:7-11; James 1:2-4