The movie Soul Surfer is about teen surfer Bethany Hamilton, who was attacked by a shark and lost her arm. In one scene of the movie, Bethany is attending a church youth meeting where the youth leader shows the group a couple of magnified images and asks them to guess what each object is. They come up with some funny answers. After showing each magnified image, the youth leader shows a photo that reveals the full object. The point she makes is that it can be hard to make sense of things when you’re looking at them really closely; the same thing, she says, is true in life. Sometimes we need a different perspective. We tend to live life “close up” without taking the time to back up and see what our circumstances look like from a year out, five years out, or in light of eternity. If we take a full view of what is perhaps the most-quoted verse from the Book of Jeremiah, we can learn something about perspective.
‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord.
‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope’
Now, I don’t want to burst the bubble of hope that this verse gives us, but we need to be careful not to overlook all that is going on here. If we go back and look at verse 10, God says His people will remain in Babylon for seventy years and then God will do all those good things He promised. We like to think that this feel-good verse means God is going to change our circumstances right now. God is our hope, and He does have good plans for our future. However, for the people of Judah that hope included seventy more years of exile before circumstances changed.
Often it is our perspective that needs to change in order for us to see the good plans and the hope that God has for us now. Bethany Hamilton lost her arm in a shark attack, and that wasn’t going to change. But she chose to get a new perspective on her difficult circumstance and see how God could use it. She put her trust in God, pursuing Him through her many trials, and she discovered that He was faithful and had good plans for her as a surfer even after a shark attack left her with only one arm. Jeremiah 29:11 is not a promise to restore lost limbs or broken relationships, fill bank accounts, or make life problem-free. It is a promise to love and bless us even when times are tough. Jeremiah 29:11 is just one of many verses in Jeremiah’s book that reveals God’s heart to bring blessing even in difficult circumstances. There are many other passages that reveal God’s heart to bless His people with good plans. (Check out Jeremiah 30:7-11, 18-22; 31:1-14; and 50:4-7.)
God wants to bless us—to give us rest, hope, and peace. And these are good plans! However, because God knows that we cannot have these things apart from Him and that we are prone to wander, sometimes He allows difficult circumstances so that we will come back to Him. As C. S. Lewis wrote, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His mega-phone to rouse a deaf world.”
God knows and understands our human state. He knows our bent toward sin. That’s why He sent Jesus as a sacrifice, prophesying about Him through Jeremiah so many years before His coming. Ultimately, God’s best plan for all who follow Him is spending eternity with Him. While in this life there is much suffering, in the next there will be no tears. Even if the world crumbles around us or we must face many years in a difficult circumstance, we can know with confidence that God’s plans are good because one day we will see Him face-to-face. Talk about a future and a hope!
Are there circumstances in your life where you aren’t seeing the full image? Take some time to reflect today. Ask God to help you zoom out and see the bigger picture of hope in the midst of brokenness.