Struggling With God's Plan

I hear people say, including myself, "I believe that God has a plan for my life." 

Let’s say that we are facing a difficult decision and want to make it in accordance to our conviction that God has a plan and is working it out  in our lives… And we want to work with God’s plan, so we say, ”I'm just waiting to figure out what God has planned for me to do.” 

I am in a challenging position right now in my life and maybe that is why I am noticing it more than usual. Whatever the case, perhaps because life seems more uncertain and more chaotic each day, the good people of faith around me are more prompt to remind me that God has “a plan." 

As a matter of fact I just exchanged those words with a dear friend yesterday morning.

I wonder! Are we just asserting, even when all evidence seems to show the contrary, that God really does have a plan? 

I can't often see that plan—can you?  

Can anyone say for sure? 

When looking at any given event in life, can we say that God's plan is being worked out?

We nevertheless believe in the plan. 

I really need to believe that there is a plan. 

I think that the holy scriptures maintain the belief that God's purposes are being worked out among us, in our time, and in our history.  The Bible frequently shows how our efforts are sometimes improved by (or resisted) because of the unseen hand of God moving behind the scenes.

A good biblical story is Joseph’s. He could say to his brothers (who had tried to kill him and ruin his life) at the end of the story, "You meant this for evil, but God meant this for good.” (Gen. 50:20)

It is a great comfort to know that all of our mess-ups and misdeeds may not be the last word, isn’t it? 

God has a plan, and ultimately, "All things work together for the good of those who love the Lord." (Rom. 8:28)

God keeps working God's good plan, despite our human nature. 

And yet there are moments when God appears not only to disrupt our plans, but even to disrupt God's own plans. Huh?

A good biblical story for that point is Jonah’s. He is told by God that God is going to destroy the wicked city of Nineveh. That is just fine with Jonah because he hates Nineveh. But then, after Jonah preaches a one-sentence sermon telling Nineveh to repent… Nineveh repents. The whole city repents. And God changes God's previously announced plan.

This sort of thing suggests to me that if we are going to use the word "plan" applied to God, we must somehow leave some room for God to be God.  We must allow God the freedom and the sovereignty that is due to God alone. 

This is what makes me troubled by some of the talk around God's "plan." Sometimes it is understood in the context of some sort of deterministic scheme in which God has already predetermined that people (as if they were dolls or machines) respond to God in certain ways. 

Maybe what we mean to say, most of the time, is not so much that God has a plan to save all of us, but that God has a "desire" that all of us should turn and fall into His loving arms.

I think I like the word "desire" better than the term "plan" when applied to the future that God has for us.  I do because clearly God has a grand desire for us, but not a point-by-point or a step-by-step plan for us. Or, He skipped me.

I strongly believe that God has created us so that we can from time to time fulfill the desires of God. And if it is possible to believe any stronger, I believe also that God has created us as those who can, from time to time, mess-up with the desires God has. I cannot be the only one. 

God is not known for being so hard-headedly committed to a plan (like we are), because God is known to be a God of love and grace. 

And "desire" seems so much more appropriate to speak of God, and God's great love for the world, than the word "plan." 

John 3:16 does not read that God has a plan, but that ”God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” 

John says that God gave, in a reckless act of love, his only begotten son, so that God's desire for the whole world might be accomplished. 

And yet I must be truthful with you and everything, when all is said and done, there is something about me that seems very faithful about the statement "God has a plan for my life." 

It is the honest truth.

For one thing, it implies that the life we are living is not our own. 

For another, it certainly suggests that life is more than simply finding personal fulfillment, or a sense of satisfaction, or a sense of meaning that makes sense to us. 

Personally, life is about obeying God. It is about believing that my life is and has a larger purpose that only God can deliver.  And, to me, that seems very biblical and very faithful too.  Perhaps in the larger sense, that is one reason I am a Christian. I am on a quest for Jesus and that is an unending discernment process in which I try to figure out what it is that God wants me to do with my life. 

While that may involve some step that I am to take tomorrow morning, I don’t know. I have experienced, more often than not, the opposite. I know that if I keep tuned with God the best way I can, my life will involve a larger framework. I will have a more panoramic vision that will allow me to believe that somehow God is managing my life in good ways. Therefore, I am going to do all I can to move in step with the larger purposes of God. 

The Christian story keeps telling me that we are who we are, not only through our knowledge and choices, but also through God's plans for us. 

In this sense, I think that it can be a very faithful thing to believe that, though you may have no idea of the specifics, and though there may not be a number of specifics, "God has a plan for my life." 

So, we are to live life knowing that God is full of loving desire for us, for our lives. Knowing that, while we may not always know from moment to moment just what that plan is, we will be able to know that ultimately, when all is said and done, God has a plan to love us and to bring all things to glorious consummation—according to God’s plans. Ha!

I am saying here that if God has a plan it must be wonderfully adaptable and flexible according to the larger purposes of God. 

God didn't just create the world, devise a plan, and then retire. 

God is busy, active—like a potter at a wheel, skillfully, artfully working a lump of clay (Isa. 64:8)— not a corporate executive who makes a plan and then demands that everybody follow the plan no matter what.

By the way, it seems to me that what God wants for us is something quite larger and more lasting even than a good marriage, a good job, the right house in the right neighborhood, and so on (the so many things that we wonder about in God's supposed "plan for my life.”) 

To me, it is so simple that it gets complicated. I believe that God’s greatest desire, that "plan" to which God is moving us, is simply for God to be with us, now and for all eternity. 

I am uncomfortable when we cut it down to a moment-by-moment plan with each and every step that we are to take. That seems to me an incredible trivialization of the notion of God having a "plan." 

In my experience, when I have encountered or come to an awareness of God's "plan" for my life, that "plan" impresses me as always greater than the plans that I have made for myself.

 

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Comments

Evelyn:
I have had computer troubles so am late with my response. I have, also, struggled with what God's plan is for my life. I believe God is using me every day (maybe my car) to help friends with transportation. Yet I feel I can be of use in so many other ways. I like what you said about God's desires for us. I will think about this for a while. Thank you for your thoughts, Maricarmen.

Maricarmen:
Welcome back, Evelyn. I'm glad your computer is behaving now. And grateful for your words. I know God will continue to partner with you (and your car) in beautiful ways. Love you.