For I Know The Plans…

I’ve known my best friend, Aaron, since I was 3 years old.  God has spoken to me through Aaron in countless ways over the last 25 years.

conversations.

grace he has shown me when I have been far less than the best friend he deserves.

encouragement he has given me when I have been far less than the man I’ve wanted to be.

loyalty in his actions towards me when he could have left me in the dust.

inspiration in watching his life up close and personal as he has sought to not only be a “good” person/friend, but also to chase after God’s plans for his life.

reading his blogs/letters/writings and being amazed at how influential he is in my life.

And on 2 occasions, I have had the privilege of hearing him stand up in front of groups of people and teach about Jesus.  And both of those times it was as if Jesus was talking directly to my heart…and I nearly forgot that it was my lifelong friend speaking.  I still remember both of those messages and cling to his words on a weekly basis.  It wasn’t simply that I remember what he said because I’ve known him forever, but rather that Aaron had said yes to what God had laid on his heart to say…and I was lucky enough to be in the room to hear it.

One of those 2 messages I heard from Aaron was maybe 8 years ago.  It was summer time and our campus ministry at the University of Central Florida met weekly in a much smaller setting than during the regular semester.  There were maybe 30 of us seated in a lecture auditorium fit for a few hundred.  And to this day I still remember exactly what he taught on.

And that is the inspiration for this blog.  If it is helpful in any way to you, I deserve absolutely zero credit for it.  If it isn’t helpful whatsoever, then I take the full blame…for when it was spoken into my heart 8 years ago, it drastically affected the rest of my life:

“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 29:11NIV)

No doubt, if you have been around the church in any fashion in your life, you have heard this verse.  Maybe your parents had it hanging on the wall of your house growing up.  If you google “top 5 bible verses of 2011” this verse ranks as number 1.  I know, nobody googles that kind of stuff.  But occasionally a weirdo like me does.

I heard this verse a lot my senior year of high school.  I also heard it a lot during college.  Those prime years where you had no idea what the rest of your life was going to look like.  You were a little intimidated.  You thought “settling down” was for people over the age of 50.

Also, I heard this verse a lot as a sort of rebuttal to my real life painful experiences.  I was being emotionally harmed, but people in the church would quote this verse and I felt like they were trying to stop the bleeding.  But the reality was that a simple bible verse was not going to hide or cover up the brokenness that I felt.

the brokenness that I felt was unfair.

the brokenness that I knew would at some point scar and would affect the lives of people closest to me.

the brokenness that was so much bigger than the cute hand painted craft with this single verse painted on it that hung in our living room growing up.

If God didn’t have “plans” to harm me, then why was my life such a train wreck at such a young age?  How was my parents divorce at my birth, my mom and stepdad’s divorce in high school after 15 years of marriage, my mom’s death of cancer at her age of 49 a part of any “plan” for me?

I benefited a lot from Christianity as I grew older.  I consistently was paid to work in ministry starting at the age of 18.  And on the outside I could probably impress other church people with my church resume.  Although financially you could say I was “prospering” b/c God was allowing me to do these things, inside I felt “stuck” in so many ways.

Was this really all there was to God “giving me hope and a future?”

And then around 8 years ago Aaron stood up in front of a group of maybe 30 of us and shared Jeremiah 29 verse 11.  But more importantly, he shared verse 10 before he got to that famous 11th verse.

Jeremiah 29:10 reads:

This is what the Lord says: “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 is a letter written from Jeremiah to the Israelites in Babylon.  They were in exile.  Their lives weren’t everything they probably hoped that they would be.  They probably didn’t feel very prosperous.  Not extremely hopeful.  And I’m sure there were many of them who did indeed feel emotionally damaged/harmed by all that had taken place.

And Jeremiah told them that God said it was going to be a total of 70 years of this.  It wasn’t a quick fix.  Most likely it was probably going to get worse for them.

And God was speaking right into all of that.

And all of that is where I lived many years of my life.  And it is probably where you live a lot of years in your own.

frustrated.

discouraged.

impatient.

wish life was better.

wounded.

scarred.

scared.

wondering about that whole “God has a plan…” thing.

And right in the middle of all of that, God gently whispers verse 11.

Bringing verse 10 into the mix makes verse 11 much more believable.  Much more realistic.  Much more hopeful.  Much more inspiring.

For the Israelites it was going to be 70 years…

but after 70 years God was going to “fulfill his good promise”.

And why was God going to do this and not simply let His people rot away and waste away internally and emotionally be ruined and die with broken hearts and doubt and unbelief…

“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 29:11NIV)

Because God knew the plans he had for the Israelites.  No, the plans weren’t as cute as the hand painted craft version of this verse would have you believe.

But God knew the plans he had for them.

And because of the reality of verse 10, I began to believe 8 years ago that God knew the plans that he had for me.  Although many times along the way I felt my heart/soul was being harmed…that wasn’t the end of what God was wanting to do in my heart.

All of this to say, last weekend I began to really see for the first time in years, the hopeful future side of God’s plan for my life.

And although along the way there has been incredible pain and frustration and discouragement…that wasn’t where God was leading me to.  It was simply necessary for God to lead me through.

So that now I can look back on my version of “70 years” and say, yeah…I actually do believe that God knows what he’s doing.

Incredibly thankful that Aaron shared this several years ago…

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2 comments

  1. Aaron Harden (@awharden) · June 14, 2012

    Wow. I love you Jason and I love what God is doing in your life. Thank you, not just for your encouragement, but for consistently showing me what a friend is. I’m so proud to call you my best friend.

  2. Nick · June 14, 2012

    I love reading your blogs bro! Always good to hear what God is doing in your life. One of these days, we really need to catch up and hang out! Love you bro.

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