Does Jeremiah 29:11 Guarantee Us Health and Prosperity?

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“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
–Jeremiah 29:11

In the middle of suffering, in the middle of situations when we wonder where God is or what God is doing, God says, “I have good plans for you, plans for your welfare.” In some translations, it says, “plans to prosper you.” 

But the word that’s translated “prosper” in those translations is the same word that’s used for “welfare” a few verses earlier (v. 7). It’s the Hebrew word shalom, which means all-encompassing peace. This is God saying, “Amidst your turmoil, I have plans for your peace. Amidst your heartache and pain, know that I am plotting for your good.” 

Now the key for us here is the same thing that was key for God’s people in Jeremiah’s day. Don’t believe in false hope. Don’t believe people who tell you that God will keep you from all suffering or that God will bring you out of suffering really quickly. That’s false hope. It abounded in Jeremiah’s day and it is abounding today. It was in the mouths of prophets then and it’s in the mouths of preachers today all across our country. 

Please hear me loud and clear. Many of the fastest-growing churches in our country today are built on this false hope. There’s a church that draws tens of thousands of people, and they say explicitly, “It is God’s will for every believer to become whole, healthy, and successful in every area of life.” They claim that on the cross, Jesus bought for us, not just spiritual provision, but physical and financial provision. So this is not just “out there” teaching. This is mainstream, common teaching that is drawing supposedly Christian crowds. 

This is not just here in the United States; it’s happening all around the world. Many of the fastest-growing, supposedly Christian churches and movements, as well as best-selling, supposedly Christian books, are built on teaching that says, “God wills for you to be healthy, wealthy, and prosperous in this world. God wills to keep you from all suffering, if only you will trust Him and have faith in Him. If, by chance, for some reason, you find yourself in suffering—maybe even because of a lack of faith—if you will only return to God in faith, your suffering will end in a short time. Believe this. Claim this. Trust that prosperity is coming. Tell yourself this.” 

These people are essentially evoking “the power of positive thinking.” They may say something like, “Have faith in Jeremiah 29:11. God says, ‘I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you.’ God wills to prosper you financially, physically, and otherwise, so if you’re suffering right now, you need to believe that peace and prosperity are coming soon, because that’s what this teaches, right?” 

No, in reality, this passage teaches the exact opposite. God’s people were in exile according to God’s will, and according to God’s word, their suffering in exile was not coming to an end anytime soon. 

Now you might think, “I like the other message better.” That is exactly what the people in Jeremiah’s day were thinking. That’s why they were believing these false prophets. God is saying to us right now the exact same thing He was saying to them then: “Don’t believe it. Don’t put your hope in crowd-pleasing words.” Why? Because they’re not from God. Jeremiah, the prophet who is speaking the word of God, says, “Here is true hope.” Your hope is not that God wills to keep you from all suffering. That’s not at all what Jeremiah 29:11 teaches. This passage teaches that God wills to bring you through all suffering. 

The context of Jeremiah 29 makes it crystal clear that suffering is a reality for God’s people in this fallen world and that God’s people will not escape it. But God says to His people, “In the middle of suffering, I promise to enable you to endure it.” God does not promise in His Word that suffering will end in a short time. That is a false hope that has led all kinds of people astray, with preachers or Christians saying, “If you just believe, have faith, you will be healed soon. If you just have faith and believe, you will have financial health soon. If you just believe, your marriage will be reconciled soon. Name it, claim it. Believe it, receive it.” 

Then when it doesn’t happen, when the healing doesn’t come, when the finances aren’t there, when the divorce becomes final, people are left wondering, “Did I not have enough faith?” Or worse, “Is God actually there? Or if He is there, can He actually be trusted?” But never in His Word does God promise that your suffering will end in a short time. You might ask, “Well, did God promise anything along these lines?” And the answer, although not as popular, is clear here in Jeremiah 29:11. True hope is this: God promises your suffering will end in the long term. “Exile will not be the end for you,” God tells His people. “Your suffering will not have the last word. I have good plans for you, and my good plans are guaranteed to prevail in the end.”

Do you realize what this meant for God’s people in Jeremiah 29 and what it means for us as God’s people today? God’s plan calls for patient trust. Seventy years is a long time to wait. Most of us would like God to work out our problems by the end of the week, not the end of the century. This is why these false prophets were so appealing then and it’s why prosperity teaching is so popular today. But it’s not true. It’s a lie. What’s true is that God is calling His people through His Word to patient trust. 

Is it possible that suffering could end soon . . . with healing or with a needed reconciliation? Absolutely! By the grace and power of God, it is possible. We can and should pray for that. But is it guaranteed? Absolutely not. You can’t bank your life on that. God hasn’t said that, no matter how good it sounds. As your pastor, I’m not going to say it, no matter how many crowds it brings or doesn’t bring. 

What God says is that when suffering comes, sometimes it stays for a while. When a child has a special need, it isn’t going away anytime soon, no matter how much you name and claim. When you go to that next doctor’s appointment and the cancer is worse, not better, when that relational hurt is not healing, when that grief over loss is not going away, when you see no light at the end of that dark tunnel, God says, “In the middle of a real-world where these are realities, trust Me. Even when you can’t see it, I have good plans for you.” 

Light is coming. In this fallen, hurting world, weeping may tarry for the night, but God guarantees that joy is coming in the morning. God not only guarantees that suffering will eventually come to an end, He promises to get you to that end. God’s plan calls for patient trust and God’s plan comes with persevering grace. God’s plan is full of peace and not of evil, good and not for disaster.

Remember the language in Jeremiah 29 here: “I will restore you. I will gather you. I will bring you back from this place.” God does not say, “You’re on your own in your suffering. Hopefully, you can make it through this.” No, God says, “You’re in My hands and I take responsibility for bringing you through your suffering, which means I’m going to give you all the grace, all the strength, all the wisdom, all the help you need.” 

This is an excerpt from The Plan of God in the Suffering We Experience.

David Platt serves as pastor at McLean Bible Church in Washington, D.C. He is the founder and chairman of Radical. He is the author of several books, including Radical, Radical Together, Follow Me, Counter Culture, and Something Needs to Change.
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