The 20 Verses You Love Most: #1 Great Expectations

The 20 Verses You Love Most | Liz Curtis Higgs

The good news? Our #1 verse is powerful, encouraging, and filled with hope. It’s been captured in stained glass, painted on canvas, carved in wood, screen-printed on tee shirts, etched in metal, embossed on greeting cards, and blazoned on posters.

The bad news? We often skip over all the verses leading up to this one. Who knew this was the worst news Jeremiah could have written to the people of God exiled in Babylon?

Oh dear.

With trembling hands and a knot in my stomach, here’s the verse we’ve all been waiting for (gulp), accompanied by photos of the heavenly skies above to remind us that with God, the news is always good. Eventually.

“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

Great Expectations

Here’s the story: After the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple in 586 B.C., King Nebuchadnezzar marched God’s people off to Babylon as captives. The Lord was good with that. All part of his plan.

But a false prophet named Hananiah assured the Israelites they wouldn’t be held captive long. Prosperity was right around the corner. His modern counterparts still dish out the same nonsense. “God wants you happy! Look at all the pleasure you can enjoy, right here, right now!”

But the true prophet, Jeremiah, told the Israelites, in essence, “No way, people. Make yourselves at home in Babylon. You’ll be held in bondage there for seventy years.”

Seventy years? You can bet that wasn’t what they wanted to hear. Most of them would spend their whole lives in exile: “Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures” (Psalm 90:10). Even in 2013 our average life expectancy in the US is just seventy-eight years.

Then in Jeremiah 29:10, the Lord assured his people, “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place.”

Ah. Something to look forward to, even if it was a long-long-long way off.

What came next were those marvelous plans for the future described in our favorite verse. But in the meantime, their lives would be filled with difficulties and disappointments. God didn’t pretend otherwise. Neither, beloved, should we.

John Gill reminds us, “Even their captivity was for their good.” We’re back to Romans 8:28. Back to the reminder that our present trials, challenges, and hardships are part of God’s mighty plan for us.

Those seventy years weren’t without purpose for the Israelites stuck in Babylon. Whatever situation we’re stuck in right now isn’t meaningless either. Matthew Henry wrote, “Let them not sorrow as those that have no hope, no joy; for they have both.”

Why do we have hope? joy? peace? Because our story isn’t finished yet.

Great Expectations

“For I know…” Jeremiah 29:11

A gentle but firm reminder from God: “I know what I’m doing” (MSG). When the One who created the heavens and the earth says, “I know,” he’s not kidding. “The Lord is a God who knows” (1 Samuel 2:3).

Matthew Henry wisely said, “We often do not know our own thoughts, nor know our own mind, but God is never at any uncertainty within himself.”

I’m elated when I meet someone who knows what he or she is talking about on a given subject. Their skill and knowledge are not only impressive; they’re also a great comfort. Ask, and they answer with the confidence of experience.

Now imagine a God who knows everything there is to know. In particular, God “knows all human plans” (Psalm 94:11) and he “knows those who are his” (2 Timothy 2:19). He knows us deeply. Loves us dearly. And promises us he has things well in hand.

Great Expectations

“…the plans I have for you,”… Jeremiah 29:11

Literally, it’s “the plans that I am planning” (LEB) or “the thoughts that I think” (ASV). It’s the same word—first as a noun, then as a verb.

In Hebrew it’s a delicious mouthful—machashabah—which means “thought” or “device.” Sometimes the word suggests an intention or purpose that’s bad, like a nefarious plot. Other times it’s a plan that’s good, like wise advice.

God isn’t tipping his hand, giving away what’s to come. He just wants us to know, “I have it all planned out” (MSG).

Years ago, while I was busily planning our wedding, my sweet Bill was planning our honeymoon. Whenever I asked him what he had in mind, he just smiled and said, “You’ll love it.” Which I did.

I had confidence in him because I loved him and because he’d already proven himself trustworthy. Not knowing the details of where we were going was part of the fun.

On a much grander scale, that’s what God is saying to us: “Trust me. You will love the plans I’ve planned for you.”

Great Expectations

…declares the Lord,… Jeremiah 29:11

Jeremiah wanted to be sure the people exiled in Babylon understood that this message came straight from God. “This is the Lord’s declaration” (HCSB), he told them. It’s “an affirmation of Jehovah” (YLT).

Jeremiah isn’t hiding behind God’s cloak. He isn’t afraid of them. He simply wants to honor the Lord and direct all their attention toward him.

Look up. Be watchful.

Great Expectations 

“…plans to prosper you…” Jeremiah 29:11

God is thinking “thoughts of peace” (ASV) concerning you. He has plans for your “well-being” (CJB), for your “security” (EXB). He is going to “take care of you” (MSG).

Growing up, the message I heard was, “Don’t wait around for some man to take care of you. Earn your own living, create your own security.” So I did what young women of my generation were expected to do—I climbed ladders and broke through glass ceilings. Sadly, God and his Word weren’t the rungs beneath my feet.

Only when I realized that I’d propped my ladder against the wrong building, and had cut myself numerous times on those shards of glass, was I ready to admit I needed a keeper, someone with a far better plan than mine.

The word prosper here is that lovely Hebrew word, shalom, which assures us of “completeness, soundness, welfare, peace.” It’s a word spoken often in the streets and houses of Jerusalem. It’s what God offers us. Shalom.

Great Expectations

“…and not to harm you,…” Jeremiah 29:11

The opposite of shalom, ra’ is a Hebrew word that encompasses every form of bad or evil—“adversity, affliction, calamity, displeasure, distress”—whether natural or moral.

God assures us that, however dire things may appear at the moment, he doesn’t “plan to hurt you” (ERV). “Torment” (WYC) is not on the menu, nor will he “abandon you” (MSG).

His plan is good for you and for your good. Harm is the last thing he has in mind. Hope is where he’s headed.

Great Expectations

“…plans to give you hope…” Jeremiah 29:11

That word plan is getting a real workout in this verse, isn’t it? The Lord knows how desperately we make lists and toss them out, how we fret over our calendars, how we agonize over whether or not we’ll ever be able to retire.

Again—still—God has this.

He has “welfare and peace” (AMP) earmarked for you. He promises, “I will bless you with a future filled with hope” (CEV).

And hope does not disappoint; not when our hope is in God. The Hebrew, tiqvah, literally means a “cord,” something we can hang on to.

Hope is what helps us wait. Faith is what keeps us looking in the right direction.

Great Expectations

“…and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

This life is a shadow, a whisper, no more significant than the turning of a page. God “set eternity in the human heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11) so we would gaze beyond the here and now.

When God says, “I shall give you a good ending” (WYC), he doesn’t mean you’ll die peacefully in your sleep. He means “your final outcome” (AMP) will be “the future you hope for” (GNT), “the end that you wait for” (JUB).

In a word, heaven. That’s the future he has in mind, the plan he has in place for us. “And this is what he promised us—eternal life” (1 John 2:25).

Because God is writing our stories, we can be sure they will end on just the right note:
“And they lived happily ever after.”

Great Expectations

“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

Now it’s your turn

How has Jeremiah 29:11 comforted and encouraged you in the past? And how might this verse strengthen your faith now, knowing the difficult context in which these words were written? Simply add your response under Post a Comment below.

To say that I’ve loved unpacking these verses with you over the last 20 weeks is a huge understatement. Many thanks for reading my blogs, sharing them on Facebook, forwarding them to friends, tweeting about them on Twitter, and most of all, commenting on the blog itself. What a blessing your words have been!

You can invite others to receive my Weekly Bible Study Blog by sending them this link: And why not pop over there yourself and sign up for my new Monthly News Note?

Thank you, thank you…for everything.

Your sister, Liz

Your Sister in Christ, Liz Curtis Higgs

Coming up next…

Bad Girls of the Bible | Liz Curtis Higgs

Beginning Wednesday, September 4 we’ll take a ten-week walk on the wild side with those Bad Girls of the Bible. I’ll follow the book chapter by chapter, seeing what new truths we might find and answering one of the Study Guide questions each week. Consider grabbing a copy and reading with us. The 2013 edition includes new Discussion Questions and an in-depth Study Guide. If you have a previous edition of Bad Girls, that will work too. I’m so looking forward to our Wednesdays together!

39 Responses to The 20 Verses You Love Most: #1 Great Expectations

  1. Debbie Prater September 3, 2013 at 5:48 am #

    There’s a lot we can fret about and be anxious about when it comes to our future as well as our family. I find I worry more about my 23 yr old son now than when he lived under our roof! How wonderful to know I have an anchor to secure me. I have the Great I Am who provides. “Be anxious for nothing.”..this verse also brings peace. We don’t have to live tormented by fear. “Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus”

  2. Juliet Mann September 3, 2013 at 6:03 am #

    Yes!!! Thats the one I was so hoping would be top of the list ! Its top of mine – such a powerful, reliable word.
    Thanks for illuminating it for us, Liz, and enhancing it with your photos.
    I have so appreciated all the 20 verses this summer, waited eagerly for each one to appear.
    Many thanks and may God bless you richly and continue to speak to us through you.

    • Karen Dodgson September 3, 2013 at 2:36 pm #

      Juliet, it was the one I voted for, too!
      I love this verse so much and it has sustained me through all the worries I’ve had over my 23 year old son….like the previous lady said, I’ve worried far more about him since he left home, and the trouble he caused while he lived at home seems so trivial now. This verse gives me hope for the future, for all of us.
      Thank you Liz, your weekly emails are a source of great joy, comfort and inspiration x

  3. Amy-Beth Dawson September 3, 2013 at 6:08 am #

    Thanks Liz.. This was just what I needed today. I am having a great deal of difficulty with a job I am in and many time have thought of quitting but couldn’t because how would I live without a job to support me… I am slowly learning that God is the great provider not any job. I feel better after reading this verse today.. I can face my job with more Hope that I can make it through the day and more Faith that God has a Job out there just for me. Thanks again…

    • Liz Curtis Higgs September 3, 2013 at 11:03 am #

      Honored to know this encouraged you, Amy-Beth. It was one of those write-through-the-night blogs, so I’m grateful when I hit “send” at the early hour, God had you in mind!

  4. SueB September 3, 2013 at 7:01 am #

    Thank you, SO MUCH, for the last 20 weeks. I have been blessed greatly by God’s Word and your thoughts. He truly has gifted you to share the meaning of His Word. I’m looking forward to your “Bad Girls” study – I just purchased that book. This verse from Jeremiah was a lifeline for me through my difficult years as a single Mom.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs September 3, 2013 at 11:04 am #

      It IS a lifeline kind of truth, as it must have been for those in Babylon (after they got over the shock of the seventy years thing!). God bless you, Sue, for your faithfulness.

  5. Dotsi Campbell September 3, 2013 at 7:46 am #

    Good Morning–
    September 6 is not on Wednesday. So, when do I tell my girls that Bad Girls of the Bible on-line study will begin? Love seeing you “far away” at DC Women of Faith.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs September 3, 2013 at 11:06 am #

      Oh, Dotsi, I’m so glad you flagged that typo! Sorry about that. The study goes through November 6, but it begins tomorrow, September 4. On a Wednesday! :>) Delighted to have you with us at Women of Faith in D.C.

  6. Marge September 3, 2013 at 8:00 am #

    A friend FB this to me yesterday, If you want to make God laugh tell Him your plans. I love it! After wheeling and dealing with God I finally realized I need to let go and let God.

    I have cried, laughed, pondered and enjoyed the lessons, God is so good.

  7. Donna September 3, 2013 at 8:01 am #

    Thanks Liz! I appreciate your doing these studies. I always learn something. This #1 verse is what kept me sane throughout some very difficult and dark times. Now God is blessing my husband and I greatly but we still love that verse as Heaven can only be even better than anything we can imagine.

  8. Judy September 3, 2013 at 8:05 am #

    I am working part time and in my last semester for a masters in Library & Information
    Science. This has to be God’s plan, because I never would have imagined it!
    Praise the Lord forevermore!

  9. Conniep September 3, 2013 at 8:18 am #

    Thank you Liz, this is a wonderful way start to the day a reminder of the hope we have only if we put our faith in God. I have seen many changes in my life in the last few years and I know he is giving me hope through these changes and my prayers. I had the privilege of seeing you in Branson, Mo. In April of this year and I can’t begin to tell you how much I enjoy your part in that weekend. Thanks again.

  10. Carol Best September 3, 2013 at 8:18 am #

    Thankyou Liz, this verse is one of my favorites for many reasons……but it became more precious when I think about it in context, how gracious our Father is to watch over His captives …..and lead us back to Himself! Our exceedingly great Reward Himself! I believe it’s right where the church is at today ( if I may say)…. Love you Liz!!!

  11. Caryn September 3, 2013 at 8:20 am #

    I love the way you hold a light to God’s truths. Things we experience in life that appear to be “bad” and not of God…are in fact His sovereign plan for our lives. I know that I often forget that. What I view as bad, always draws me closer to the Lord, and that is the greatest thing I can ever experience. We do serve a mighty God who is in complete control.

  12. Birdie September 3, 2013 at 8:24 am #

    I kept this verse close at hand while I took care of my husband with Alzheimer’s and afterward, I needed it to keep me strong in the LORD. I know He has plans for me and I am trusting in those plans, not my own.

  13. Lisa September 3, 2013 at 8:27 am #

    Boy, did I need this one today! I’ve been fighting a painful chronic (but rarely fatal) illness for the past two years and every time I think, “Lord, I cannot do this anymore!” Someone throws an uplifting verse my way. Which is great, because I don’t really have much choice in the matter; I’m required to go on! 🙂

    • Elizabeth September 9, 2013 at 7:14 pm #

      Hey Lisa, check our Rest a place for Christians living with chronic illness and pain. It is a blessing and comfort straight from Heaven…just like our dear Lizzie!

  14. Linda H September 3, 2013 at 8:41 am #

    My granddaughter learned this verse at a very yoing age and would always ask me to read it too her. It is always a reminder to me that I am protected and nothing God has allowed will harm me! He knows the way, I just need to hold His hand and walk with trust! So thankful for the journey these Bible verses have taken me this summer and fo you Liz for following God’s leading that opened our eyes to see more clearly! Can’t wait for the new study!

  15. Bev September 3, 2013 at 9:55 am #

    I am in Babylon at this phase in my life. For the first time in my life I’ve had to deal with a lot in the past year. Anxiety and depression suddenly appeared after the derecho hit our city and we were without power for five days in 100F degree temps/high humidity, my son and his pregnant wife were separating, my elderly mother-in-law who lived with us got sick over the course of the year and passed away in May. I lost my job in June. I’ve never had to deal with so much in my life but oh what a blessing this devotion was for me today. It’s just another reminder that I have to trust God while in Babylon and know that He has my future. I’m still fighting depression and anxiety but I’m keeping myself strong and in His word and fending off satan’s attacks by reminding him of his future as well! Thank you Liz, you’ve always been a blessing and know exactly what I need to hear.

  16. Nancy September 3, 2013 at 10:50 am #

    I just was appreciating the beauty in my yard. Then I came in and found this wonderful posting on Facebook. The meditation is beautiful and such a wonderful reminder of His amazing love for me. Thank you, Liz.

  17. Angel September 3, 2013 at 11:37 am #

    I so glad to read through your devotion on this scripture. Honestly, In recent years I have had bad taste in my mouth every time I heard it. I’ve told the Lord that I was sorry I felt that way abut it, but it just seemed to apply to other people, or possibly it’s just out of context. Or the scripture is just talking about the future in heaven, but not the here and now. Trying to hold on to the hope that what is happening in our family is His plans for a good future.

  18. Julie Sunne September 3, 2013 at 11:43 am #

    I don’t usually enjoy online Bible studies, Liz, but The 20 Verses You Love Most was amazing. You unfolded each verse carefully and spread it out for all of us to understand. You didn’t just repackage each, but laid them out in words and phrases that whispered hope and encouragement to my soul. Thank you, Sister.

  19. Kim September 3, 2013 at 12:06 pm #

    I have grown up with this verse around me and think about the many times it has helped me hold tight to the knot at the end of my rope. As God’s word is living, it is amazing to see the richness that comes from each trial to gather what the Lord is trying to say in that same verse. When i was young I thought it meant (with all the pink bubble gum available) that life was going to be great, with no problems, if I just looked to the Lord; after all that was what many people were telling me. With time and wisdom the Lord has begun to peel away that sense of entitlement or assumption that I wouldn’t have to deal with painful things, like divorce, strained relationships from grown children with no promise that those relationships would be restored in this life time. Up until very recently I have lived under the hope and presumption that all will be fixed perfectly in this lifetime, in time to have many family Christmas’ together. While that is a lovely thought and goes well with a Norman Rockwell picture, I believe there will be a wealth of lessons the Lord will teach me in and through the pain of this rough water. He has already begun that process. There is a part of me that wants the Norman Rockwell. Broken relationships hurt. I would love for all to be fixed tomorrow….but if it’s not…. I have to keep walking with hope that the “growth” is not in vain… growth for me…..growth for my loved ones….that is what I am in the process of learning.

  20. Cathy Gross September 3, 2013 at 12:11 pm #

    Running to God and begging for His help was how I functioned the first thirty years of my life. Now I do not beg and plead because of this verse. He already has a plan, loves me like mad and I can rest in that love in the middle of the darkest night. He is and was already there for me. Thank you, Jesus.

  21. Kim Olson September 3, 2013 at 1:16 pm #

    Thanks Liz for unpacking the verses before the Jeremiah 29:11. So often I have brought this into context to others who mention this verse. I guess it resonates with me because I have been waiting a long time (25+ years) for something I truly believe the Lord has promised me. It gives great comfort to know that even though there is a promise from God, it will be in his timing and not mine. While I wait I trust (not always perfectly to be sure) but he always brings me back with a gentle word of encouragement that waiting and trusting Him and His timing is what I am to do as I grow closer to Him and continue my transformation of mind to all He has for me. Praise Him for his grace and mercy in the doubting times and for his encouragement! Blessings to you and all you share. Such an added encouragement.

  22. Leanna Ellis September 3, 2013 at 2:50 pm #

    Thank you for this word! What God has been speaking to me for a long while now is that we live in an instantaneous world. We want things instantly. And well, this verse isn’t a quick fix or turn around in the road. It’s an investment. And it may or may not be seen on this side of Heaven. But ultimately the rejoicing will begin in Heaven.

  23. Susan Keane September 3, 2013 at 10:09 pm #

    Thank you, Liz for these verses. I have grown in this study – taken time to stop and contemplate a little more (also, thank you for putting them in a pdf for us!).

    This verse is one that I have heard misquoted a little too often – even have heard God being blamed for “the plan” (the life they are living – a result of unGodly choices they have made). so thank you for reminder that God’s plans for us are higher than ours. His plan for us is obedience. and the Hope we have in Him. I can’t stop at verse 11 – because the following verses are equally comforting – Call upon me, come & pray and I will listen , you will find me when you search for me with all your heart. We have a great Father, who desires our looking for Him, obeying Him and letting Him be our hope. I need to remember that more often. Thank you, again, Liz for these verses that encouraged me through a tough time in my life.

  24. Bridgette Gray Angelo September 3, 2013 at 11:47 pm #

    I can’t believe God had me read this tonight as I come out of a nine-month depression. Being bi-polar, I struggle much with God’s purpose through this adversity. This verse captures the essence of what I must see….His plan. I belong to a SOLOS group of single women reaching other single women and this is our theme verse.

    Thank you sooooooo much for your writing on this. It met me right where I am and has brought healing to me once again. Praise His Name!

  25. Elizabeth September 4, 2013 at 8:14 pm #

    Thank you Liz, it has been a weekly face lift for me. You spoke of how good you feel when somebody obviously knows what they are doing. You are in that class sweetie! I have already learned well from you about “Mary confusion” and wince in my pew when I hear the many examples of the disorder. You are a talented lady and I have been so blessed by your faithful use of them. I know others have been too, to God be the Glory. I better quit this “mush-o-gram” and let you down gently. I am looking forward to another trip through ‘Bad Girls’ with you. Thanks for the trip,Sis! Stay faithful!

  26. Jerranna Cannady September 5, 2013 at 9:59 am #

    I have asked this question of many and can never get an answer. Please help me as this is the one thing that my literal thinking mind always gets snagged on….how can we take verses that were spoken directly to others, the Jews, Jeremiah, David, etc; and say they were meant for us. If God said it to David it was for David, no? If I were speaking directly to you would it not be my word to you alone?

    Please be the one to help pull me over this hill.

    • Shauna September 11, 2013 at 10:20 am #


      I’m not nearly as well-versed as Miss Lizzie is, but I’m going to give this a try: think of all the verses and books as stepping stones. Or, the rungs on the ladder analogy that Liz uses above. Yes, God was speaking to those folks, but He speaks to us as well. Maybe we don’t have burning bushes, ladders to heaven, or fire on the mountain in the literal sense, but I do believe He speaks to us through the Scriptures. I think sometimes our minds, even though created by Him, work overtime and get in the way of communing with Him. As humans, yes, our words are intended for the person we are speaking to, BUT, if others hear, we are impacting them, whether it is intentional on our part or not. Does that help? I’m praying it does.

  27. Gracie Malone September 7, 2013 at 9:27 am #

    I am crazy about you! Never a dull moment and nary a shallow thought. Your explanation of our favorite verse is amazing and I wish I could remember every word. So today’s challenge for me is to download a PDF file. Love it, love it!

  28. Dianne Hansen September 25, 2013 at 11:17 am #

    I have truly enjoyed all of these ‘our favorite verses”. Would you possibly put them in book form for us? I would like to use them as a study.
    Thank you Liz for your loving insight into the precious Word of God.


  29. Dawn October 22, 2013 at 4:23 pm #

    What do we do and what are we supposed to think when God doesn’t rescue us from extreme problems? For the past SEVEN years weve gone through sheer hell with literally one thing after another and no matter how much we pray, cry and bang on gods door, it remains firmly shut and heaven remains ever silent. I’m desperate for some encouragement.

    • Beth October 30, 2013 at 5:43 pm #

      Dawn, you have gone through so much. I do not have the answers to your difficult questions, but I can give you a resource that may help. John Piper is a respected pastor, and all his sermons are free to read or listen to on his website. Here is one that I have found helpful:
      Praying that God will encourage your heart and help you stand firm on His promises.

      • Liz Curtis Higgs October 30, 2013 at 7:49 pm #

        Beth, THANKS for suggesting this great resource. I answered Dawn privately via email (didn’t want you to think I ignored a sister’s cry for help!), and so appreciate whenever we’re able offer one another comfort and encouragement. Bless you!

  30. Sara February 23, 2014 at 5:12 pm #

    What a wonderful teacher you are. Loved how you shared the context of what the Israelites were experiencing when they received this Word from the Lord. This is such a good and balanced perspective of God’s plans and how sometimes pain is part of the plan, but ultimately everything He does is for our good. Blessings to you and thanks for this wonderful post!
    P.S. Out of curiosity – where did you end up going on your honeymoon? If it was my honeymoon, I don’t know that I would be able to wait to find out. 🙂


  1. Good News God | - September 4, 2013

    […] The 20 Verses You Love Most: #1 Great Expectations | Liz Curtis … dear. With trembling hands and a knot in my stomach, here's the verse we've all been waiting for (gulp), accompanied by photos of the heavenly skies above to remind us that with God, the news is always good. Eventually. […]