Last week, I postulated that these times are not actually more uncertain than any others, we are simply more aware of the uncertainty than usual. I have heard recently that some businesses are making plans to keep offices closed into next year, while retailers are planning to not have Black Friday in November. I am making plans, too, but mine are for a vacation. I take a trip every fall, and this year, the only difference is that I have an increased recognition that God is ultimately in control. I am sure it is a healthier perspective, overall.
Recognizing that God is in control of everything doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t make plans. We need to plan as best as we can, understanding that God may have something different for us. Sometimes, it feels like my whole life has been one big lesson in accepting that God’s plans are different from mine. I had dreams of a husband and children, but God kept me single. Accepting this divergence between His will and my desires has defined my adult life. But, I suppose there is a difference between dreams for the future and the more specific planning for certain events. The more involved and detailed the planning is, the harder it is for us to have faith when things don’t go our way. Our response to unplanned circumstances is really where the rubber meets the road. I do love a good road trip!
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit” – yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.
There are times in life when things go according to plan. The danger of this is that we might begin to think that our planning puts us in control. When my sister and I went to Hawaii, we planned our vacation extensively over a ten month period. Everything went smoothly, and we had a wonderful, relaxing trip. The next trip we took, God reminded me that trials help us grow and learn. The reminder came in the form of a screw in one of my tires, on the first day of a road trip. It wasn’t exactly the souvenir I was looking for, but learning to trust God in all circumstances doesn’t happen when things are easy.
Now, as we swing into full trip-planning mode, I wonder what God has in store. The conditional phrase, “Lord willing,” has never been so much in the forefront of my mind. I want to live with my plans surrendered to God, but it is easy to get lulled into a sense of control by the normal flow of everyday life. James 4:16 indicates that the proper mindset is one of humility. It is easy to say we’ve given our lives to Christ, but have we really let go of our plans and put our whole future in His hands? I have made ordinary plans to visit my parents on some long weekends, over the next couple of months. Over the years, I have cancelled similar plans many times due to illness, butt for some reason, COVID makes me want to hold more tightly to my plans. It is probably because I know how easily things could change. I have to be careful not to get too caught up in what I want. In these times, we see clearly how one person’s insistence on following through with plans can be detrimental to the health of others. I am determined not to be the person who exposes my older family members to COVID. I need to hold my plans loosely, and prepare myself to change course, if needed.
The heart of a man plans his way,
but the LORD establishes his steps.
Many are the plans in the mind of a man,
but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.
It is clear from Scripture: the Lord can foil our plans or He can establish them. In Psalms and Proverbs, there is an emphasis on God frustrating the plans of the wicked and prospering those of the righteous. But there is also a focus on wisdom. God wants us to seek wisdom from Him and ‘do our homework,’ but He doesn’t guarantee an easy road. Our only guarantee comes from knowing that God is trustworthy and loves us. When God thwarts our plans, it is for our good. Sometimes, I try to imagine what purpose God might have in the particular detours He sends me on. Is He keeping me safe from some particular danger that lay ahead? J.I. Packer taught me in Knowing God that wisdom is not found in knowing why God has certain plans for us. Wisdom is about trusting God, not about knowing what He doing. Sometimes, He may allow us to catch a glimpse of His purpose, but we are most wise when we keep living by faith, not pursuing answers.
There can be joy in the detours of life, if we trust God and don’t take it personally when our plans fail. What will the next few months hold? God knows, and I trust Him. I will be disappointed if my long weekends or vacation plans fall through. But I know that tomorrow brings steadfast love and faithfulness. None of these plans are important in “the scheme of things.” I want to work on my heart so that my plans are fully surrendered to the One who holds my future.