Jeremiah's letter to the exiles in Babylon: Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But 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 find your welfare. For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let the prophets and the diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, says the Lord.

For thus says the Lord: Only when Babylon's seventy years are completed will I visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 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 and hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart. I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. Jeremiah 29: 4-14 (NRSV)

Jeremiah 29:11 is one of the most popular scripture verses to memorize. And it should be. It's a lovely, encouraging verse. But a lot of people don't realize that this verse - is part of a letter to exiles - the Israelites, who still have 70 years of captivity ahead of them. God isn't saying those words to happy, comfortable people in their comfortable homes with their comfortable families. God is speaking to people going through some tough stuff.

It's easy to take comfort in that verse without the context. But with the context, it is even more meaningful. Kim Harms, from Iowa, found that especially true in her case as she battled cancer. Her cancer wasn't a punishment the way the Israelites' exile was, but it was the toughest season of her life. Some moments she was a little scared of what lay ahead for her, and some moments she was very scared. But in many moments she had more peace than a 40-year-old wife and mother with breast cancer might be expected to have.

That peace came from God, who has plans to prosper Kim and not harm her. She was so thankful that the same words that gave the Israelites comfort thousands of years ago can still be a comfort to us today. So try to remember as you go through the day, that no matter what problems you face, you are not alone. It may not be today or tomorrow, but God has plans for you; plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you hope and a future. Put your trust in God and He will give you a peace that goes beyond understanding. God loves you!!!

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for bringing us comfort in hard times. Help us to sense your presence, even when circumstances make it hard, in Jesus' name, amen.

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