This is one of those Bible verses we turn to constantly. Popular and oft-repeated, I fear it is a verse we too often take out of context and for granted, in a sense. It just sounds so good. God has plans for us, plans for us to prosper and not be harmed, we have hope, we have a future.
I'm not saying these things aren't true, for the most certainly are. God absolutely has a plan for us, prosperous, hopeful, loving, merciful, good plans. The thing to remember is ... they're His plans, not ours. Not ours.
I fear it is all to easy to read this verse and interpret it to mean "I will live a wealthy, comfortable, happy, easy, fun-filled life." So when the trials come, we whip out this verse and say, "God! What the heck? You promised I would prosper! You promised no harm! You promised a hope and a future! What's going on?"
See, it's so easy to get caught up in the world's definitions. Worldly happy often includes money, nice belongings, good health, and a generally comfy life. It's so easy to think this is what God is promising, that when He says He has plans to prosper us, He means a prosperous job that results in money for a nice car, beautiful home, and designer jeans.
No, no, no. See, God doesn't care about those things. Whether in designer jeans or Goodwill's finest, God cares about the heart. When God says He will prosper us, He doesn't mean in material goods. A prosperous life is one that serves God wholeheartedly, sharing His love and goodness, His grace and mercy, being disciples, as His Word calls us to do.
And no, God does not harm us, but this does not form a crystalline shield that blocks us from all troubles and trials. We will see trials, we will experience pain, not by God's hand, but because the fact of the matter is that we live in a sinful, broken, painful world. We are not exempt, we are not shielded from the flaming arrows of the Evil One. And without trials, without pain, there would be no healing, there would be no forgiveness, and there would be no growth.
God does not promise us a cushioned life. God promises us a good life. Good by His standards, not our own. Our future is in Him, looking towards Heaven. For we are not of this world, this is not our home. We have hope for Heaven, hope for healing, hope for the lost and broken. We have hope because we have been found, loved, and saved. We have hope because we know Jesus.
That is what this verse is about. It's not promising we will always live in a big, beautiful, warm home with fine clothes and food. We could be homeless, living beneath a cardboard box, with the rain pouring down on our heads, stomach growling with lack of food, and this verse would still hold strong. Prosperous is about our hearts, living a life that is full and growing in God, and prosperous in our walk with God as we show others who He is and how He loves them. God doesn't promise we won't get hurt, but He promises He won't harm us. This doesn't mean He'll stop all the pain and suffering, for through these trials we grow and learn how greatly we need Him and how wonderfully He provides for our needs. He promises hope in Him and hope for a future in His Kingdom, our true home.
It's the sweetest love, the greatest gift, our freedom in Jesus. Plans, prosperous and hopeful, not in our terms, but God's. Always good, for He is good.