"When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. " — Jeremiah 29:10
Our reading today includes a verse that parents and teachers often use to encourage young Christians: “‘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.’” It’s a beautiful promise, but it needs a bit of context.
God’s words just prior to that verse help us see that God is saying this while his people, the Israelites, are going into exile. So before these hopeful plans go into effect, the people will have to endure 70 years of captivity. And their bright future will hinge on earnestly seeking God, who longs to bring them back.
While we endure seasons of suffering, we ask the Lord to deliver us, to bring us out of exile. But often God’s answer is that we must wait patiently as we settle into this place for now. God will eventually release us, either through healing in this life or by a compassionate transfer to the next. Sometimes God’s plan is for short-lived suffering, and other times God allows us to take a “scenic route” that builds our perseverance and character.
In my case, it’s been six years of melanoma hanging over my head—but never without hope in God. We can make our plans, but the outcome is in God’s hands.