“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.” Jeremiah 29:11
Speaking of plans, before a builder constructs a project, there is a lot of time and forethought invested in planning and preparing for the build. As well, there is usually a direct relationship between the quality of the materials, how fine-tuned and specialized they are, and the type, size and magnitude of the project or build that is undertaken.
For example, the quality and complexity of materials a framer uses to build a house is a lot simpler and more basic than the quality and specialization of materials a NASA engineer uses when constructing a space shuttle. The level of quality required for this extraordinary ‘build’ really came to light in the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster when a single, supposedly insignificant O-ring failed causing a cascading catastrophic failure of the entire $196 billion Space Shuttle which resulted in the horrible loss of the life of the crew.
Well the truth is, we live on an extraordinary ‘build’ and that is Planet Earth, and like the crew on the space shuttle, the existence of all life on earth depends on the workmanship and the quality and fine-tuning of materials with which it has been constructed.
As just one example, if the Earth’s average distance to the sun was reduced by 1% we would no longer be in our Solar System’s habitable zone,¹ meaning the Earth would become uninhabitable. Not only that but if other factors including, but not limited to, water, the magnetic field, the oxygen/nitrogen ratio and crust thickness were not only present but at the correct amounts, life could not exist on the Earth. As was the case with the O-ring on the Challenger Space Shuttle, if any one of these factors fails, life as we know it could not exist.
This level of intricate design and fine-tuning continues on the microscale when we look at the building blocks or materials of the planet; something atheists call the ‘fine-tuning problem.’ As an example, if an electron was not exactly the ratio of 1:1836 to the mass of a proton, molecules could not hold together and therefore life as we know it would not exist. (For reference, adding a grain of sand to this ratio would offset it by a factor of a billion times a billion!)
If the electromagnetic and gravitational forces are not finely-tuned we wouldn’t have large objects like planets and stars forming as well micro-scale objects like water molecules forming and again life would not exist.
There are a host of other factors that we could also consider but it all ends in the exact same way every time: if each factor is not finely tuned, in perfect balance, life would not exist. When it comes to the design of the Earth, not only does everything seem to be created with the exact specifications for life but there also appears to be no margin for error on a tremendous multi-level scale.
Although this is incredible to think of, what is equally astounding to me is that the preciseness of the properties of the atoms that make up our life-sustaining atmosphere and sky, also have the exact properties that allow for magnificent sunsets. The same properties that give the mountains their strength also give them their breathtaking beauty. The God that we serve is not only the greatest engineer, He is also the most brilliant artist.
When I consider these two ways of looking at creation it also helps me appreciate there are two ways to look at Jeremiah 29:11.
God says, “I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you …” Scientists have only begun to understand the enormity of how detailed His plans in creation are so that we can live safely and without harm.
But then God continues and says, “… plans to give you hope and a future” and this takes us into the realm beyond physical survival. The God who has put in all the front-end effort to make the Earth habitable for life has also put in equal effort to make it enjoyable for us to live in.
The “plans to prosper you and not to harm you” in creation are so fine-tuned that it boggles the mind of the scientifically-minded atheist due to the sheer greatness of the complexity. The rest of the verse, the “plans to give you hope and a future,” should equally boggle the Christian’s mind due to the incredible love being expressed.
When I am in the midst of a trial, sometimes I need more than the knowledge that God doesn’t make mistakes. I cling to His plans to give me hope; that He can trade beauty for my ashes² and that in His loving nature He wants to satisfy my heart’s desire.³
It is one thing to know that there is a God who has plans for us, to provide for us and not to harm us, but quite another to know that this same God has plans to give us hope and a future.
Isn’t it amazing that God has designed Creation to declare both of these attributes in stunning detail?
¹Habitable zone criteria includes solar irradiance, atmospheric composition, cloud and weather patterns, the reflectivity (or ‘albedo’) of the Earth’s surface, and so on.
Gunn, Alastair. “How much closer to the Sun could Earth’s orbit get and still be habitable?”. Science Focus Q&A. https://www.sciencefocus.com/space/how-much-closer-to-the-sun-could-earths-orbit-get-and-still-be-habitable/. Accessed April 7, 2021
²“To all who mourn in Israel, He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, …” (Isaiah 61:3)
³“Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalms 37:4)