“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.” – Jeremiah 29:11
I see the familiar phrase scribbled in high school yearbooks and hear it spoken in commencement speeches. I even read it in personal notes from friends when I’m starting a new job or relocating to a new home. Nothing encourages my heart quite like Jeremiah 29:11. But then there are those unwelcome circumstances, where hope feels like a distant dream. I question God, “How can this be happening?” I push this verse aside and look for a different answer. Dread finds its way into my thoughts and I feel like I’m constantly fighting against it. I know God is with me in the midst of my fear, but I wonder. Could this trial really be part of His plan for me?
If you’ve ever struggled to trust God through life’s hardest times, take heart. Women throughout history have walked this road and discovered what it truly means to trust our Heavenly Father. Women like Hagar. Through her seemingly impossible situation, she learned a life-changing lesson in trust. Her story gives us hope today as we face life’s battles. Here are 5 things we can learn from Hagar about trusting God when His plan for us is scary and hard.
God has a plan when we don’t know which way to go.
Hagar lived in the shadow of Sarah, a well-respected and honored woman. The strained relationship between the two women resulted in Hagar making two trips into the desert. The first time, she chose to leave on her own, but the second time, Abraham sent her away at Sarah’s request. “So she turned to Abraham and demanded, ‘Get rid of that slave woman and her son…’” (Genesis 21:10 NLT). Her circumstances were beyond her control.
When things happen that I can’t control, I feel powerless. I long to follow God’s plan, but how can I when all I see is vastness surrounding me? There’s no paved road pointing the way and no one there to offer a helpful word of advice. Like Hagar, I end up roaming around without knowing what to do. “...she wandered aimlessly in the wilderness of Beersheba,” (Genesis 21:14).
Emptiness can be scary. It reveals our insecurities, telling us we are alone and validating our fears. But with God, emptiness doesn’t equal loneliness. During those times when we don’t have a clue which direction to go, we can let the stillness push away all distractions so we sense God’s presence more than ever. He will calm our anxious thoughts and give us the direction we seek. “Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, ‘This is the way you should go,’ whether to the right or to the left,” (Isaiah 30:21).
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Releasing control draws us into a deeper place of trust.
We can tell from Hagar’s mom instincts that her greatest love on earth was her son, Ishmael. Hagar wanted the best for him, so why would Abraham send them away like this? Ishmael was Abraham’s first born. How could he condemn his own son to death? Hagar reached her breaking point, so she made Ishmael as comfortable as possible, and walked away. “When the water was gone, she put the boy in the shade of a bush. Then she went and sat down by herself about a hundred yards away. ‘I don’t want to watch the boy die,’ she said, as she burst into tears,” (Genesis 21:15-16).
Watch: "When the Future's Uncertian, Call on Jeremiah 29:11"
Nothing tests a mother’s faith like watching her child hurt. Our kids will face unfathomable pain in their lifetimes. Sickness, harsh words, self-destructive choices, and more. If our kids are in pain, the hardest thing to do is release control of the outcome. Yet God asks us to entrust them to His care. There will be times in our lives when we will feel the weight Hagar felt as she laid Ishmael by the tree. We won’t have the answers, but God promises to be with us. We will sense the overwhelming comfort of His peace as we release control to our Lord.
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What matters to us, matters even more to God.
Maybe like me, you’re in that place now. You feel helpless as you watch a loved one struggling. It’s difficult to imagine that anyone could love my family more than I do, but God does. God tells us in verse 16 that Hagar cried, but God didn’t respond to Hagar’s tears. He came when he heard Ishmael. “But God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, ‘Hagar, what’s wrong? Do not be afraid! God has heard the boy crying as he lies there,’” (Genesis 21:17).
God’s care for us defies limitations. He sent his son to earth to experience our joys and sorrows, happy moments and heartache. He understands the depth of our love, because He loves us even more than we can imagine. Matthew 7:11 says, “So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.” Let’s be encouraged today by this promise. As we cry out to God with our cares, we will know He watches over every detail of our lives. What is important to us is important to God.
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God’s promises endure through even the toughest trials.
When hardships come, it’s easy for me to slip back into my familiar pattern of what-ifs. “What if it doesn’t work out? What if God doesn’t answer my prayer?” My need to know the outcome takes over. I come face to face with the unknown, and I panic. I forget that God’s promises never change.
In Hagar’s first trip to the desert, God made a profound promise. One she could hold onto if she ever felt herself slipping into that place of doubt. The second time, He told Hagar what to do and reminded her of this assurance. “Go to him and comfort him, for I will make a great nation from his descendants.” He promised to give Ishmael “hope and a future,” just like Jeremiah 29:11 says. Had Hagar forgotten God’s promise? She said she didn’t want to watch her boy die. Had she let despair cause her to question God’s plan?
I understand Hagar’s hurt. I’ve been there, and maybe you have, too. Discouragement can chase away our hope, but God’s unending mercy shows us that His promises don’t expire. They are yes and amen. “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God,” (2 Corinthians 1:20 NIV).
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God is with us, always.
“Then God opened Hagar’s eyes, and she saw a well full of water. She quickly filled her water container and gave the boy a drink. And God was with the boy as he grew up in the wilderness,” (Genesis 21:19-20).
I had a conversation with a dear friend recently about life’s difficult days. She’s one of the happiest people I know. When something hard comes her way, her instinct is to get as far away from the hurt as possible. She just doesn’t like to be sad, so she seeks happiness to get past the hard.
Happiness is a good thing, but my friend shared an important truth with me that day. We will have struggles, and sometimes we have to stay there a while. So when we feel stuck, we can trust that God “will never leave us or forsake us.” (Deuteronomy 31:6). God is there, even when we don’t see a way out at the moment. Not only did God provide just what Hagar needed in her darkest moment, he also stayed with them as they moved into the next chapter of their lives. He will do the same for us and work it all together for our good.
Remembering these promises helps me look at Jeremiah 29:11 with renewed faith. I no longer dread those words when God’s plan for me is scary. Instead, I can read that verse as if I am hearing my loving Father speak it to me for the first time, reviving my heart with His gentle Spirit. Let’s try it together right now.
“For I know the plans I have for you, ...plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” If you’re wondering how to trust God because His plan for you is scary and hard, allow these words to bring back your hope. They will comfort us and bring us to a new level of trust in Him. We don’t have to know the plan, because God does.
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Kristine Brown is a communicator at heart, sharing biblical insight with readers and audiences in a relatable way. Her life experiences blend together to create an eclectic backdrop for her lessons that highlight God’s powerful Word and redemptive grace. She is the author of the book, Over It. Conquering Comparison to Live Out God’s Plan, and founder of the non-profit organization, More Than Yourself, Inc. Read Kristine’s weekly devotions and Bible study resources a tkristinebrown.net or connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.
This article is part of our larger resource library of popular Bible verse phrases and quotes. We want to provide easy to read articles that answer your questions about the meaning, origin and history of specific verses within Scripture context. It is our hope that these will help you better understand the meaning and purpose of God's Word in relation to your life today.
"Pray Without Ceasing"
"Trust in the Lord with All Your Heart"
"All Things Work Together for Good"
"Be Strong and Courageous"
"Take Every Thought Captive"
"Do Not Fear"
"God is Love"
"I Can Do All Things Through Christ"
"The Lord is my Shepherd
Originally published Tuesday, 25 January 2022.