That verse so often written in graduation cards was spoken to an Israelite nation in captivity. The LORD has delivered His people into the hands on Babylon and He promises them that they will remain there, captive, for 70 years. 70 years. That's an entire lifetime. I don't know about you, but being in exile doesn't seem like fun. In fact, it's a situation that would cause me to question the Lord: "Why have You brought me here? What are You doing?" It is in the midst of this captivity, this time of trial, that the Lord assures His people - "'I know the plans I have for you . . . plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.'" (Jeremiah 29:11)
But what really struck me from Pastor Schierkolk's message came earlier in the chapter. The Lord instructs His people, the ones He loves and has placed under the control of an enemy nation to love them. To love those people who have made them exiles and captives:
"'Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.'" - Jeremiah 29:7Pastor Schierkolk compared this verse with what Jesus later declared the second greatest commandment: "'Love your neighbor as yourself'" (Matthew 22:39)
Maybe you wouldn't describe yourself as living in captivity. But maybe you're not thrilled about your present physical location - you would much rather be living someplace different, someplace where exciting things always seem to be happening and it's obvious to you that the Lord is working. Or maybe you find yourself more in an emotional captivity, in the midst situation that is rocky and full of pain. A place that you would rather not be in. Perhaps you find yourself asking the Lord, "Why have You brought me here? What are You doing?"
Whatever the case may be, I encourage you to remember the wonderful words of Jeremiah 29: 7 and 11. Israel probably didn't like being in captivity any more than you like the current situation the Lord has placed you in. And it probably wouldn't have been their first reaction to love the enemies they were living with or to pray for the nation of Babylon. But that is what the Lord instructed them to do. It is the same thing that He instructs us do.
So, wherever you are - whether you want to be there or not - remember that the Lord is in control. Seek the welfare of those around you: invest in them, show them the love of Jesus, pray for them -- even in the midst of captivity.