One of the verses that is most often taken out of context is Jeremiah 29:11. This verse appears everywhere on social media. Just look at your typical Christian girl's Instagram bio, and there's a good chance you'll see that verse referenced. (Out of curiosity, I searched #jeremiah2911 on Instagram. There are over 34,000 posts.) The NIV version, the one most frequently quoted, says, "'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.'"
People like this verse, and it's easy to see why it's so appealing. At a simple glance, it makes it seem as if God is going to straighten out everything in your life and never let anything bad happen to you, as long as you're a Christian.
But what does this verse really mean? By putting it into context, the true meaning can be understood. You see, these verses are talking about the Israelites being in exile. In verse 7, God tells them, "And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace." God isn't magically getting rid of all their problems. Instead, He's commanding them to stay and to pray for the city that has taken them captive. He's telling them that their suffering must continue, not that it's going to end.
Then, if you jump to verse 10, God says, that "after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place." I don't know the average lifespan in this time period, but there's a chance it could have meant some of those people would not live to leave Babylon. Either way, 70 years is a long time, and it shows that God does things only in His perfect timing. What we want to happen isn't necessarily in line with God's plan.
Why would God want us to suffer, some might ask? There are numerous verses in the Bible that talk about suffering. For example, Romans 5:3-5 says, "And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." We should rejoice in suffering, because it sharpens and strengthens us into a stronger Christian. Not only that, but 1 Peter 5:10 says, "But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you." Although we may suffer in life, God lives within us and He can offer us a perfect peace.
Jeremiah 29:11 is not reassuring because it means God will shower us with only success and blessings in life, but it is reassuring because it means God has a purpose for suffering.