Martin Saunders has written a brilliant article on how too often we misinterpret Jeremiah 29:11 – instead we need to understand that God “doesn’t promise we’ll all get rich, and he doesn’t promise that life is going to be easy. His plan is so much grander than that.”:
It’s one of the most popular verses in the Bible, bringing comfort to millions every day. It’s a wonderful, warm sentiment, which has spawned a veritable industry of bookmarks, posters and mugs. It is pinned to refrigerator doors all over the world, a source of daily encouragement that ‘God is in control.’ Most Christians will know it well:
“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you a hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).
There’s an awful lot of truth in this verse. God is absolutely all-seeing; he knows everything that has been and that will be already. He certainly has a plan for the world, and our privilege as his followers is to experience and join in with it daily. He definitely promises us a hope and a future. But that’s not really what we read into that verse, and it’s not really what it’s saying, either.