Context is Everything in a Graduation Card

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Originally posted on June 20, 2019

Disclaimer: This post was written while I was under the influence of evangelicalism and hustle culture. My beliefs have radically changed since the Covid-19 pandemic.

In February of 2011, a friend named Jeremiah accepted a job outside of Manitoba. His wife before they were married sent a card along with him quoting that famous verse in the book of Jeremiah 29:11:

“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.”

At first I thought this was no big deal. Although it does come across as cheesy. Let’s talk about Aaron’s philosophy on the book of Jeremiah, a book where in chapters 28 and 29, it was filled with true promises, fake news, and now screwed up context.

This part of Jeremiah was written in a dark time in Israeli history. Nebuchadnezzar invaded Judah in 586 BC and took Daniel, Ezekiel, and other celebrities from Jerusalem into captivity. Prophets Jeremiah and Hananiah were both promising hope and a future. However, Jeremiah was wishing Hananiah’s fake news was true even though Jeremiah knew the struggle was about to become more turbulent. Unfortunately, Hananiah’s “truth” was more popular than what Jeremiah said in 29:11. To top it off with a cherry, King Nebuchadnezzar has a habit of killing prophets who cause rebellion against him.

The point I want to make is that Jeremiah encouraged his people to live life and keep moving whole enduring hellish years in captivity. He never said the plans of prosperity, hope, and a future would be filled with sunshine, lollipops, rainbows, and unicorn farts. He even claimed more people would be captured, raped, tortured, sick, oppressed, and many would be killed while enduring Babylonian captivity. I’m pretty sure no one’s going to include those other verses surrounding Jeremiah 29:11 in cards for graduation, congratulations for a new job or retirement, or any kind of card encouraging someone toward their new milestone.

Other posts have written similar premises on quoting Jeremiah 29:11 out of context. However, I think I should explain why I’m writing my take on this. In 2010, I felt like my own entitled attitude of dissatisfaction of singleness was in captivity. I felt like Jeremiah 29:11 was a slap to the face. It felt like false news from Hananiah. In my initial story about my friend Jeremiah and his wife, I was the third wheel in our friendship. His wife was my ex-girlfriend.

I shouldn’t stop people from writing Jeremiah 29:11 in graduation cards or congratulations on retirement gift certificates. But I really think people should include that starting fresh contains hardship,distractions, and false promises before the fulfillment of prosperity, hope, and a future. I speak from experience. I probably needed that verse before getting married and trying to support my own loving wife. I needed it when I started visiting the chiropractor. I needed it when I started my own now failed business as an app developer three years ago.

I’d say I’m still hurt by the way Jeremiah 29:11 is constantly taken out of context especially when it involves a love lost. But I am happy for those who are graduating. You’ve got a wild adventure ahead of you. You will have financial and relationship issues ahead along with a crap-ton of distractions. But I know there are plans the Lord has to prosper you and not to harm you. They may not even happen 30 years later yet, but they are plans to give you hope and a future.