A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.
~ Proverbs 16.9, NKJV
When I was young, I had very definite ideas about what I wanted to achieve in life. I wanted to have enough money to live in a nice big house in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I wanted a college degree, a good career and a good church to worship with. I wanted to be married, have children. I wanted to have it all.
There’s a funny truth about our crazy dreams: while many are attainable, they are not necessarily attainable together. I couldn’t have everything without sacrificing something.
By the time I was 16, I knew I wanted to go to college, but didn’t have a clue where to go. I wanted to go somewhere prestigious like Harvard, Yale, Princeton or Stanford—I certainly had the grades and the test scores to stand a chance. But when the rubber hit the road and I had to start shelling out hundreds of dollars per application, those California state schools looked far more attractive. I settled on a school in San Luis Obispo, over 300 miles from home, and at the age of 17, embarked on dream #1: college. While crashing classes, eating lousy dorm food, drinking too much coffee, pulling all-nighters and forming lifelong friendships, my dreams transformed once more. I wanted a home and career in that beautiful place. I wanted to revel in the beauty of that coastal town for the rest of my life. The church there had become my family and I was thoroughly happy.
Unfortunately, careers and affordable rents are difficult to come by with such an expansive concentration of interns and talent. While I was working my first post-college job, I met my spouse and moved to Sacramento, embarking on another unplanned journey.
I broke camp and moved to the next place.
Such has been my routine for the past seventeen years.
Make plans. Dream dreams. Get settled. Things change. Break camp. Move along down the road.
The dreams keep changing shape. I make plans—good plans—but the Lord leads me in other unplanned directions.
So, is it foolish to make plans and dream dreams?
Here’s some things to keep in mind about plans and dreams:
- Entrust them to the Lord
As the above verse states: A man’s heart plans his way [these are dreams/goals/plans] but the Lord directs His steps. Pray about your goals and dreams. Ask God to shape them and make the right ones come to fruition. I have learned that God’s plans are always more beneficial than my own. I’m learning to put every request before Him with the Words, “not my will but yours be done, because you know best.”
- It is far better to make plans and work at them, then to have no plan at all.
For example, I have a savings plan laid out every year. Sometimes there are surprise expenses and I have to adjust the plan. Even if I come out a few dollars short, I’m farther ahead than I would have been if I’d just arbitrarily thrown money into savings. Make plans. They truly help!
- Be thankful for the dreams that have been fulfilled
In the face of unfulfilled dreams, we tend to mourn their loss and disregard any present blessings. First of all, if you have been washed in the blood of Christ, you are in Christ. What better “dream” could their be than salvation?? In more physical terms, what dreams are still in your possession? I assume at least one has still come to fruition. Give thanks in all circumstances. God provides for you every single day.
- If our greatest dream is the Lord, the devastation of our earthly dreams won’t be as catastrophic.
Many of my earthly dreams have not just been derailed, they’ve been violently shattered. It’s painful to see things go up in smoke as it were. Consider the early Christians. They lost their homes, families, livelihoods, and more—all for the sake of Christ. Did they sit in the ashes and weep? No! They rejoiced! They had come to realize that there was something far better than this life. They had Christ, and He was their greatest treasure. They are our cloud of witnesses who possessed joy indescribable. We ought to desire, as they did, a heavenly country.
- It’s all temporary.
There’s a reason I keep saying, “Break camp.” We are only here for a short while. This world is a wilderness camp ground and the promise land comes afterwards. Let go of that sense of “possession” and remember that it all belongs to the Lord.
Today I sit in our freshly painted house, surrounded by the chaos of moving boxes, paperwork, misplaced furniture, and all those trappings of relocation. I’ve been sorting through old books, papers, and trinkets, and trying to say goodbye to people, places and things that I’ve grown to love. Yes, even in this wilderness place, there are attachments that are painful to part with.
I never dreamed that I’d spend my adult life relocating multiple times. And yet, I can’t deny that God has lead me to each new location. Sometimes I’ve run joyously toward my new destination, but mostly, I go with sadness and painful goodbyes.
If your wait is over and the call has come to break camp, remember that if the Lord wills you to go, He will direct your steps. He will guard you and protect you.
Commit your work to the Lord and your plans will be established.
~ Proverbs 16.3, ESV