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.
Oh, how we love the assurances that this verse seems to give us. But if you're anything like me, you spend a fairly good amount of time looking at where your life is and thinking, "This...does not seem planned." It doesn't seem like the way things ought to be. This doesn't look like a life that God put in this particular order, and if He did, then He must be some kind of sadistic God or I must have done something completely horrible to deserve...this.
Right? Let's just be honest about it. Because we've all been there.
But this verse isn't really about you. It's not about me. It's not about our individual lives or the way that our day today looks. This verse is about us. It's about God's people as a whole, not necessarily God's persons.
Because the original Hebrew word here for "you" is plural. For I know the plans I have for ya'll....
And that's actually pretty consistent, since God has always been a God of His people. Essentially everything that we see in Scriptures has a communal thread running through it, even though our modern Christianity has made it the religion of the individual. The story of God makes so little room for such a reading; it's about God's people, God's community.
God saves Joseph from a well, but it's not about Joseph at all - it's about Israel. Just chapters later, we see the nation of Israel come to Egypt. Joseph's brothers come to him. He saves them all - the people rescued because of what seemed to be God's saving of one man. Moses used to pitch a tent just outside the camp, where God would come to meet with him. God says this is no good and commissions a bigger tent so that He can come and live among all of His people. Paul addresses his letters to churches, even when he greets individuals occasionally by name. The heart of the letters is for the people of God, with side notes for the persons.
See, you're not just trapped in your own life, stuck trying to make sense of things, stuck trying to figure out how all of this could possibly be planned. You're part of a bigger plan. You're part of God's plan for His people, and that's amazing. Because as cool as it would be to have a God who has our lives all planned out, it's far cooler still to have a God who has our lives in His plan.
And you know? Broadening out our vision to see this bigger plan actually reveals to us that it's only in the plan for God's people that God's persons can have what this verse (and the next one) promise anyway.
This passage promises peace. But how can you have peace in your life if those around you are still living in strife? Their struggle will flow over into your life, and a world without peace can infringe upon yours and rob you of it. But if all God's people have peace, no one has any need to shake yours.
This passage promises hope. But how you can you have hope if the world around you is full of despair? Their darkness will creep into your light. But if all of God's people have hope, no one has any need to dampen yours.
This passage promises home. But how can it be home if you're there all alone? You will have a place, but it won't feel like anything because there's no one there to hold or to hold you. We need each other. But if all God's people are there together, if home is God's plan for all of us, then all of a sudden, it feels like a real place. Like a real belonging. Like, well...like home.
It's hard for us to wrap our minds around the idea that God's plan might not be individually ours, at least not in this promise, but it's so much better if it's not. It's so much better if we're part of the bigger plan, for only when God's people have the promise do God's persons get to live it.