I remember running into someone I had known before my life changed drastically from my mental breakdown. We spoke briefly about the struggle I had faced and why I left the Christian camp I worked at because of it. Noticing the tattoo script on my arm, they quickly said ‘Let me guess, Jeremiah 29:11?’ When I said yes, I received a knowing smirk and an eye roll.
I know why that specific verse caused such a reaction. The frustration I felt wasn’t necessarily at this person but at the reasoning behind how they responded.
There are plenty of young people in the church who have gone through what I went through. Plenty of whom use the verse as a message of hope, as a proclamation they will be healed or find a peaceful life free from harm.
It’s a common application of the verse in modern Christianity; Jeremiah 29:11 is one of the most misused verses in the Bible.
The book of Jeremiah is a written history of a life more difficult than many of us could imagine. He was called to be a prophet, and God called him knowing his life would be tumultuous and painful. God’s people were in exile and suffering under the hands of enslavement. It was a horrible time for them.
Speaking as God’s prophet, Jeremiah reminded his people the things promised to them would come to fruition. That they needed to trust, to have faith, and to hang on just a little bit longer. If they did so and followed Him, God intended to fulfil His promise.
When it comes to my tattoo, it’s not on my arm to give me hope of a life free from harm. It doesn’t cover my scars to serve as a reminder God will heal my mental illness or take away my suffering. It’s not there to be a message of unending belief God never intended my life to be full of hurt.
Rather, it is a message telling me to have hope. This verse is about God’s gentle reminder to fulfil a promise to his people. He is there with them even in their suffering. It’s a reminder God was with Jeremiah and his people, leading them through their calling. Leading them through their torment, suffering, and pain.
We are not those people. That word wasn’t spoken as a promise to us. But it can act as a reminder.
For me, the tattoo sits on my scars to remind me I don’t need to cut when I hurt because I am not alone. It tells me in those dark moments when I hate myself and feel I am worthless that God is right there, in the moment with me.
I used this specific verse because it serves as a reminder God fulfils his promises. It reminds me having a life filled with darkness does not mean it is void of God’s light.
Jeremiah is the one person in the Bible I feel a connection to. His relationship with God was raw and real. It wasn’t all about praise and constant joy. It was honest and it was hard. Serving God did not mean a life free from being an outcast. He did not have a life filled with hope and a future, free from harm. It was rough, it was dangerous, and it tore Jeremiah apart.
What has always stood out the most to me was Jeremiah’s transparency with his feelings on all of it.
He knew he was in some pretty awful shituations, he knew God was leading him, and he wasn’t afraid to speak his mind to the Creator.
“You deceived me, Lord, and I was deceived; you overpowered me and prevailed. I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me. Whenever I speak, I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction. So the word of the Lord has brought me insult and reproach all day long. But if I say, “I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” – Jeremiah 20:7-9
God was with him through it all. Jeremiah’s willingness to air his frustrations about everything with God made their bond stronger, and it fuelled the fire in his heart to follow his calling.
There is no way to know if God will ever heal my BiPolar. I cannot see into the future to know whether I will ever experience a life free from darkness and pain.
What I do know is God has a plan for my life, just as he has a plan for yours– and nothing will stand in the way of his promises.
Not my hurt, not my pain, and not the darkness clouding my mind and heart like a fog.
God will work through me whether I am full of joy or not. If anything, I believe God’s promise to me is he will use me in–and because of–my brokenness.
As crazy as it may sound, I believe my darkness is a gift, just as it was with Jeremiah. Crazy to say right? But I think of it this way–my hurt, pain, suffering, and darkness grant me a perspective many do not have. They give me a greater compassion for those who hurt, and a greater understanding of how great a saviour Christ is in my own life.
Jeremiah was honest with God regarding how he felt about the hand he was dealt. But that hand never diminished the fire in his soul to live for God.
Jeremiah 29:11 is a reminder to hope and have faith always. On my arm, it serves to provide me with the hope of knowing God is by my side in everything.
Jeremiah never had a good and perfect life, free from harm and suffering.
As my life stands right now, my life will always be filled with a hovering darkness.
But God is there and He knows where He is taking me. I strongly believe that is the greatest promise he can give.