"'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 (NIV)

"God works all things together for good."

"You were created for a purpose."

"God has a plan for your life."

What do you feel when you read these promises? Do you believe them, or do you sometimes question if they're true for you?

I've doubted, and I've believed.

Soon after I surrendered my life to Christ, I started struggling with painful things from my past that made me doubt God's promises. I wondered: If God loves me, why has He allowed so much pain in my life?

If He loved me, why did God allow my family to be broken by adultery and divorce, shattered by confusion and chaos, shaken by alcohol and drug addictions and so much more? And why didn't He stop me from the pain I brought on myself, or keep me from the darkness of depression?

One afternoon I got the courage to tell my friend Wanda about my doubts and questions. I remember how she didn't give me a pat answer, but looked at me with understanding in her eyes and told me she was sorry. Then she told me her story, which included many disappointments and heartbreaks. Yet, I didn't sense doubt or pain in her words. Instead, I sensed confidence and hope.

Turning the pages of her Bible to Jeremiah 29, Wanda read today's key verse as a promise to me: "'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.'" (v. 11)

She then told me God wanted to heal the pain of my past and use what I'd experienced to pave the way to His plans for my future. But I didn't want God to use my pain or my past. How would any of it do anything good for anyone, especially me?

Have you ever felt that way or asked: "If God loves me, then why...?"

These are the kind of questions that can linger in our hearts when we've been wounded and disappointed. And hurts that aren't healed can lead to bitterness and bondage. Yet, in the security of a relationship with Jesus, God invites us to ask hard questions and look for answers that usher us into the depths of His redeeming love and healing power.

Can I whisper some hope into your heart today? If you are living and breathing, your purpose has not yet been fulfilled. No matter what you have done or what has been done to you, God does have a plan for your life.

So, how can you discover those plans? Let's read the premise that follows the promise in Jeremiah 29. After God declares He knows the plans He has for us, He says, "Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (v.12-13)

We find God's plans when we surrender ours to Him each day. It's a moment by moment process of coming to Him, talking to Him, believing He listens and letting Him love us into a place of hope and healing.

God's love is not a quick-fix for our wounds, but it has the power to redeem and restore us into confident hope. When we allow the Holy Spirit poured out like Living water to go deep into our pain, He can heal our hearts from the inside out.

As we process the pain of our yesterdays and live through the disappointments of our todays, doubts may still creep up, threatening to steal our hope. But each time that happens, we can stop and seek God in that place. We can ask Him to show us His purpose by revealing what is true about who we are and what we have been through to make us start doubting.

Then we can ask Him to help us re-define our future, not through the filter of our past and pain, but through the power of His life-giving truth. And do you know what happens when we do that moment by moment, day by day, doubt by doubt? God tells us in Jeremiah 29:14, "I will be found by you...and will bring you back from captivity."

We find Him again and again. We find the One who longs to lead us out of captivity to our doubts into a place of freedom and hope. I know this is true because I have walked it, wrestled with it, resisted it and finally surrendered to it.

God's love is not only unfailing, it redeems and restores. His Truth cuts to the core of our struggles, bringing purpose to our pain, redemption from our past and hope for our future!

Lord, heal my hurts and give me hope as I learn to trust the plans You have for me. I'm coming to You and seeking You with all my heart today. Please set me free from my doubts and lead me into a place of confident hope. In Jesus' Name, Amen.