Once upon a time, in a life far, far, away, I had my whole life planned out.
Well, honestly, I only had it planned out through age thirty. My seventeen-year-old self couldn’t really think past thirty.
As I mentioned, I had these grand schemes. I knocked out my Bachelor’s Degree, landed a good job (followed by a better-paying job), and met my spouse. Almost a year after getting married, we bought a house expecting to reap the benefits of a rising market.
I had plans! I was conquering my plans! I was living the dream!
Before I could do the happy dance, the bottom fell out…
The ink had barely dried on our mortgage when the market crashed. (Even five years years later, that house was worth only around 50% of our purchase price)
My spouse had a mandatory job relocation while our house was still upside down.
My husband survived multiple life-threatening incidents, and one nearly fatal incident.
I became intimately acquainted with PTSD.
We went through another dramatic career change.
We discovered my oldest child had one of those behavioral disorders that people think are fake, but are as real and pervasive as the flu.
We relocated to a new state.
Did I mention that I had plans?!?!
In spite of all my “planning,” all my carefully constructed castles crumbled beneath the weight of unforeseen change.
Even so, God has been my faithful guide. Even so, God has refined me through every plot twist. “Even so,” as the song says, “it is well with my soul.”
2019 has arrived, and I find myself unsure about which goals I’d like to set. Considering how well most of my plans have turned out, I am wary. Of one thing I am absolutely certain: It is helpful to make plans, but every unexpected change is a reminder that God’s plans will always trump mine.
Last year, setting goals helped tremendously. For the first time ever, I read the entire bible within one year. I have read the entire bible several times, but never within a 365-day period. I memorized the fifth chapter of James and I’m hoping to knock out chapters 3 and 4. I have not yet decided how I want to dig into the word for this year, so I haven’t filled in that blank yet.
As I’ve been mulling over what to “plan” for 2019, one scripture keeps replaying in my mind:
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.
~ James 4.13-16, ESV (emphasis mine)
Notice that last section: “If the Lord wills, we will live, and do this or that.” James is not condemning plans; James is condemning arrogance of planning without considering both the power of God and the brevity of life. This week, I’ve been meditating on this passage and I will be writing it on the top of my goals sheet as a reminder throughout the year.
Here are three things to consider as we make plans/resolutions/goals or choose a word for the year:
We Do Not Know What Tomorrow Will Bring
I could not have foreseen 9/11/01 in my nastiest nightmares. I would never have bought a house in 2006 if I had known about the impending crash. I dreamed, though did not really expect, to blessed with a loyal spouse—and God provided exceedingly beyond what I imagined!
What will today bring?
Joy or Grief? Riches or Poverty? Peace or War?
We don’t really know what’s around the bend between Sunsets and Sunrises. We can picture a normal day and make preparations for such a day, but who knows what unexpected pleasure or pain will strike?
Since we do not know what tomorrow has in store, make the most of today. Love others today. Serve God today. Make healthy choices today.
Make your plans and dream your dreams, but submit them to God with the humility of a servant, knowing only God sees the future. Those twists and turns that frustrate us are opportunities to exercise our faith in God’s wisdom and faithfulness.
If The Lord Wills… We Will Live
When I was younger, death seemed like a distant possibility. I knew, logically, that I could die at anytime, but I lived as though I had all the time in the world. When someone we love passes from this life, it is a startling reminder of our own mortality.
In recent years, I have wondered whether modern medicine and, indeed, our own modern society thinks we can somehow play God, exercising power over life and death. There are those who try to control the gender of a baby by aborting those which do not suit their tastes. They try to deny that a fetus is a life until a premature baby defies the odds and survives.
We take mountains of prescription drugs, pump ourselves full of vaccines, diet, exercise, and down supplements. People go on life support or use other artificial means to force their body to function even when it is begging to shut down.
There is nothing wrong with self care; in fact, I highly recommend healthy living because it not only promotes mental health, but it also allows us to serve God with greater energy. At some point, however, we need to recognize that we have only limited control.
Eventually we will die in spite of all our efforts to stay alive and/or healthy.
I realize this is not an uplifting thought, but it puts each day in perspective.
I will be less likely to squander time with the people I love if I realize I only get to have them for a limited time. I will be less likely to hesitate sharing the gospel when I know others may never get another opportunity to encounter God’s love. I will be less arrogant if I remember that I am not in absolute control.
If the Lord Wills… We Will Do What we Plan
If the Lord wills, our plans will come to fruition.
It is a habit of mine to say, “I’m planning to come,” rather than, “I will be there,” because I know that disaster may strike and I will be prevented. Having three kids is a perpetual lesson in managing expectations. Several years ago, when my middle child turned four, we planned to take the kids to Disneyland and stay overnight in a hotel. The night before Disneyland, all three kids started vomiting around midnight. We were all thoroughly disappointed, but we were reminded that we cannot control everything. My kids also learned that we, as their parents, would do what we could to keep our word, it just might not go exactly as planned.
God is in control, not me.
God’s will is for my highest good, and He knows what is best for my soul.
I control my choices, my attitude, and my habits, but I cannot control everything.
Make your plans, but as you make them, may your prayer be, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”