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.Jer 29:11
How many times have I heard this verse. It is used most of the time to give hope in circumstances, and that is where it originated. Israel was in captivity in Babylon and God wanted to encourage them.
Most translations say thoughts instead of plans. And that brings me to the thoughts I have about this verse.
Using thoughts seems to change the verses meaning around drastically. Of course we expect God’s thoughts to come through and materialize or manifest. But God would never intervene with our free will. That means that not everything works out the way God wants it.
We could now dive into determinism and prevision. If God wants something, does he think it? Or even speak it? Well, just read what he told Jona, and then changed his mind because out of free will the people of Ninive repented.
So I would say that God thinking good thoughts is weaker than God planing good things.
But those thoughts just bring us into trouble. We either start thinking about free will or God’s omnipotence. Does God force his plans on us? Or does he plan and it does not work out?
For people looking closer, the encouragement is a bit less than expected.
Yet, as most times, we maneuver ourselves into a rut unnecessarily.
The word translated thoughts or plans would better be translated purpose.
And that changes it all.
God has a purpose for all of us.
But what is so different about purpose? We think so Greek. For us, a plan is a-b-c. It is a predetermined sequence of actions and reactions leading from A to B. Deviation is terrible and often cannot be corrected. Therefore, we use measurements and key indicators to course correct often.
There is little place for error, improvisation, interaction or creativity.
Purpose is different. It defines a destination, an assignment, an effect. But not the way to achieve it. No plan as we think of plan.
There are actually many plans that lead to the same purpose. This now is so comforting.
What does it mean? If we fail, God has many alternative plans to bring us into our purpose. If we fail again, he is not at the end of his rope. It is impossible for God to run out of possibilities and plans to bring you to your destination. For you to achieve your assignment.
Of course, we can refuse each and every plan God presents to us. God will respect your decision. And come at you with his next plan.
We so often think that we blew it and God went to somebody else. Yes, maybe with this plan. But not with your purpose.
Do I want you to fail?
Not really. Though we can learn from our failure, it obviously is better to do the right thing in the first place. But let’s face it, we are not perfect. We can know though that God will not give up nor be lost. He grabs the next plan.
That has an unexpected consequence. Ever so often we blame God that he did not follow through with his plan. Or at least we look at our boring and challenging life as God’s plan and long for more.
Let me give you an example.
For over 30 years I am a computer programmer. The first 16 years I loved it. Then I was unemployed for 2 years, and after that, it never was the same again. God had reminded me that he called me into a church leadership position.
For quite some time I was frustrated with a long row of gigs as computer programmer, usually short term and challenging. Not challenging for the brain, but rather boring. Challenging as I was doing non-sense work. Most programs I wrote never saw daylight or were retired or cancelled shortly after going life.
I took all those jobs in good faith that I was doing God’s will and that I needed to feed my family. And I saw God’s plan in all this, to support me until the time had come to change gear and join church leadership.
Thinking that God had but one plan for my life, I surrendered groaningly. Granted, I learned a lot.
If I had known that God has a purpose rather than a plan for my life, I would have been more courageous. I think that several times God offered me alternatives that would have been all great and godly ways to my destination. But I saw one plan only.
The word for purpose stems from a verb that means to weave in Hebrew. This shows me that weaving together the different life strangs of people to a full cloth is so much more important than the single thread.
God weaves masterfully to bring about a whole picture. He knits us together. And again we talk about relationships being more important than a single life.
We do not have to make a mistake to pressure God into unpacking an alternative plan. He wants us to be mature sons with our own opinion. Not in rebellion with him, but with Christ’s mind. He wants to work together with us. He offers us alternative paths and lets us decide. And all those plans are his.
There are many plans that are not. But the existence of our own plans or the plans of the enemy does not limit our God to one way only. He is more creative than that. He is creativity in itself.
We do not take our lives in our own hands. But we work together with God in a much more mature way. I am his son, and he has a purpose for me. And me willing, he will get me there. No matter what.
Now this is hope. Or don’t you think so?