All around the prophet Jeremiah, the whole world seemed to be falling apart. His home, his nation, his people—everything continued to slip away. But right in the midst of this dark time, God gave a promise that still fills us with hope today:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
Perhaps you have come face to face with the sorrow that Jeremiah felt. Perhaps you, too, know what it’s like to see everything fall apart all around you. You know the pain, the uncertainty.
But do you know the promise?
God gave this pledge to the people of Israel who lived in exile, but it’s no less true to any of us who follow Jesus. He does have a plan and purpose for us that—while not always easy—is assuredly for our good and His glory (Romans 8).
So, how can we know this plan He has for us? And how can we walk confidently in it?
Before God gave this famous promise, He warned the people of Israel not to listen to false voices (Jeremiah 29:8–9). The same is true for you. All around, you’ll hear advice from a number of sources about what your purpose is, why you’re here on earth, and how to overcome challenges. In fact, all these voices can be deafening.
But knowing the plans God has for you means listening to the One who has them. You need to make time in your daily life to stop and read God’s Word and speak to Him. That’s the only way you can navigate the cacophony of opinions that come barreling at you. When you know your Creator and His voice, you can hear Him above the noise.
The more you grow accustomed to His Word, the more confident you’ll feel in His guidance through the Holy Spirit.
Action step: Make margin in your life for prayer and Bible study. You need to hear God’s voice above the roar of the world.
Keep Your Head Up
God spoke this passage to the people of Israel who had been dragged away in exile far from their homes. They faced some very tough times, but He didn’t want the former loss to be their focus. Instead, He wanted them to focus on the future hope.
The same is true for you. When you face challenges, you’ll want to quit or change directions. But if you’ve been spending time listening to God, challenges don’t necessarily mean that you need to throw in the towel. In fact, it could very well be the challenges themselves that prepare you for God’s purpose in your life.
When officials tossed the apostle Paul in prison, he didn’t take that as a sign that he should pack it up and return home. He used the opportunity to sing praises and witness to the jailer and his family (Acts 16).
If your children seem like they’re running farther and farther from Christ, if your marriage isn’t getting any better, if no job has opened up, don’t let those circumstances drag you down. Look for opportunities to shine the light of Christ even more. Ask God to keep molding you through the trials.
Keep believing that God is up to something, even if you can’t see it yet. After all, God’s purpose for our lives often leads us through the valley to refine us.
Action step: If you’re in the heart of a bad situation, take a moment to pray about and look for opportunities that God may have for you. Take stock of how God is using this tough time to change you.
Look up—to the Cross
God gave an amazing promise to the Israelites of Jeremiah’s day:
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)
Not long afterward, God would fulfill all the promises He’d made to them. You see, from Genesis 3:15 to the exile into Babylon (and their later return), God had been telling them of a Savior, a promised One, a Messiah. And God wanted His people to remember that He would fulfill His Word to them.
In our case, all of God’s plans and promises for our lives begin with the cross. Our purpose on this earth starts at Calvary with the death of Jesus and proceeds to the tomb with His resurrection. As a Christian, we’re here to share that good news in all that we do. That’s at the heart of what God intends for us, and His purpose will never take you away from being ambassadors of His grace (2 Corinthians 5:20).
So, any plan God has for you will start and end with Jesus. You’ll have the opportunity to share the good news about Him in whatever situation God intends for you.
Action step: Take inventory of your goals and aspirations. Is Jesus at the center of them? If not or you’re not sure, ask God to help you keep the cross in sight.
This article first appeared on BibleStudyTools.com.