Jeremiah 29:11 “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”


Perhaps you’ve heard this tale:

Near China's northern borders lived a man whose mare, for no reason at all, ran away into the territory of the northern tribes. Everyone commiserated with him.

"Perhaps this will soon turn out to be a blessing," said his father.

After a few months, his animal came back, leading a fine stallion from the north. Everyone congratulated him.

"Perhaps this will soon turn out to be a cause of misfortune," said his father.

Since he was well-off and kept good horses his son became fond of riding and eventually broke his thigh bone falling from a horse. Everyone commiserated with him.

"Perhaps this will soon turn out to be a blessing," said his father.

One year later, the northern tribes started a big invasion of the border regions. All able-bodied young men took up arms and fought against the invaders, and as a result, around the border nine out of ten men died. This man's son did not join in the fighting because he was crippled and so both the boy and his father survived.

Now in some traditions the cycle is said to go on forever…good turns to bad turns to good turns to bad, and so on, so that the categories of fortune and misfortune ultimately lose their meaning.  And there is a lot of truth in that. 


What the Jewish and Christian traditions add to the mix is the belief that God is at work in the world for an ultimate good.  The threads of our lives are not random.  They are part of a beautiful tapestry, even though we cannot see the whole.  We will experience both fortune and misfortune along the way, but we keep on weaving because we believe that even the weeping gray threads will be part of the gasping beauty of the masterwork. 


That is what Jeremiah is writing to the exiles in Babylon in this verse.  It’s not that the terrible events of the destruction of Jerusalem were a blessing in disguise; it’s that God is in the transformation business and has a design beyond our knowing.  Difficulties will come, tragedies will happen, but God is at work in the world for good and can use even the worst that life can throw at us to give us a future with hope.  It is a promise not just to individuals, but to nations.


In Christian faith, this is symbolized most powerfully by the cross.  God takes despair and makes it hope; God takes death and makes it life.  I don’t believe God plans the tragic and difficult events of life, but a master weaver can transform even the mistakes and make it seem like there could have been no other design. God has plans for our welfare instead of our harm and will provide a hope-filled future. 


Master Designer, help us trust during times of difficulty.  Amen.


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