It’s not untrue, but I argue it’s oversimplified.
I know we have all been told this; and more than likely, we have also said it to those around us at some point. Graduation maybe? In the thick of a trial, spoken as encouragement that things will get better and trials aren’t in vain?
I think I’m learning something new. And, as always, I fully recognize that i just might be the last to catch on. But in case I’m not, I will continue.
I am beginning to realize that when we speak of God’s plans for our lives, we should speak humbly. Trembling maybe. Not really out of fear – God has not given us a spirit of fear – but perhaps out of sheer recognition that our lives may deal us that which is far different than our expectations. We should understand the dying of self that God will require so that we can walk as He did – so that we are prepared for heaven.
Think of Stephen. In Acts chapter 6-7, we learn that a hero of the faith becomes a martyr of the faith. I highly doubt that when we speak to the 18-year-old graduate among us we are envisioning that God may ask them to die for their faith.
Or when you pray with your husband that you are giving your fertility and all family planning to God that you’re envisioning recurrent pregnancy loss.
I know I didn’t.
So what does that mean exactly?
Does it mean that we have to refrain from cooing at the newborn about the plans God has for him while visions of a godly profession, godly choices, godly family flash through our mind?
I say perhaps no and yes.
I know you’ve heard it before that God isn’t a genie in a bottle. That following Christ doesn’t give you a perfect life. Or an easy life. Or anything that the world sees as “good.”
He promises us that this world will be difficult to live in, at best. Jesus says,
These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you willhave tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. -John 16:33
And yet, we can still find peace and joy. You know why? It’s right there at the end of that verse – Jesus has died and risen again. He has overcome all the evil of this world. He reigns. And, even though we will not endure even one day on this earth without feeling the effects of sin, God promises to work it all out. If you love Him, you can have confidence that He is orchestrating your life. It may not be easy or fun or fit into our culture’s view of success, but it’s good.
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. – Romans 8:28
So, the way I understand it, God absolutely does have a plan for your life. If you’re a child of His, you can rest in knowing that He will work it out for you. You can know for certain that life will deal you some tough stuff, perhaps even absolutely agnozing and horrific stuff. It will be hard. His plan may not always feel wonderful. Like Job, those around you – your closest friends and family – may abandon you, but God never leaves.
I pray that I can honestly and jofully proclaim that which Paul proclaimed:
And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. -2 Corinthians 12:9-10
And that I grasp the truth in what James says:
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. – James 1:8
I want that very much.
If we encourage others that God’s plan for their life will be happy and easy and fun, I think we’re stopping short of the the reality He shows us through His Word. If, when we declare that God has a plan, we are gently reminding those around us to trust Him, to hold tightly to Him, and to prepare ourselves for the testing and strengthening of our faith, I think we are much closer to the truth.