“God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” has become a very popular statement to use in talking about God to non-Christians. It sounds really nice. I am concerned however, that the second part of it may not be a very biblical or helpful way of talking about the Christian life.
Much of the time when I hear talk of God having a wonderful plan for people’s lives, Jeremiah 29:11 is quoted. I have only heard the verse taught in context one time that I can recall. That is unfortunate because the verse needs its context to be properly interpreted. It isn’t written in the context of providing general promises to all believers everywhere. It is part of a longer section of scripture in which God makes some specific promises and instructions regarding a specific situation facing some of his people. We are not those people in that situation. We might be able to make some conclusions about God’s will and plan for us from other parts of scripture, but this isn’t a good place to be looking.
In Romans 8:28 we are told that in all things God works for the good of those who love him. The thing we need to keep in mind here is that God’s idea of our good is very often going to be different to ours. When we tell people that God has a wonderful plan for their life, they tend to assume things like that their lives will be happy, exciting or comfortable. This theology can cause a great deal of pain when it collides with the reality of what God sometimes lets us go through for what he knows to be our own good- becoming more Christ-like. Sometimes God lets us go though hard things or even just boring things for our own good. Some believers will face persecution or poverty. By giving people false ideas about how wonderful following God will make their lives, we risk producing false converts who are “believing” so they’ll get the life improvement and discouraging genuine believers who are going through unexpected difficulties. We owe people better than to mislead them.
Overall, I think the “God has a wonderful plan for your life” line risks disrespecting the bible by badly interpreting it and deceiving people by giving them inappropriately high expectations.