(This concept is also known as predestination, but that word is scary and has too many connotations, so I’m going to ask we start with a blank page.)
The last time I was in a relationship, I was old enough to be thinking about marriage and young enough to know it would never work. Despite this, I started planning. I downloaded Pinterest, and started collecting images; I brought him to meet my family and my grandma said she would donate a grand to our wedding, which may have been unnecessary pressure, but seemed exciting at the time.
When we broke up, I spent a long time angry at God that it hadn’t worked out the way I’d wanted. Call me naive, but don’t pretend you’ve never had a moment where you looked at what might have made you so happy but is no longer yours and were angry at God. If I worship a God who claims to be powerful over all and work things for my good, how can he not give me what I want? Ah, but the answer is in the question.
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
I have a complicated relationship with predestination and God’s plan. I have prayed many times for the grace to say “your will, not mine be done” without a secret asterisk that says “as long as it doesn’t hurt.” What I have learned so far is that I do not know what Gods plan is, exactly, but he has been clear enough when I am not following it.
Let me explain.
We have the Bible as a starting point. It is always a good place to start. It tells us all about God and he tells us what he would like in many different ways. A clear example is the Bible says love everyone- Jesus says it, the Old Testament says it, the New Testament repeats it. So I need to shape my actions with love. It also says do not murder, so I shouldn’t make plans to do so. Of course in this section, I might give a quick shout out to visions, angels and hearing the voice of God. You may be skeptical of this, but ultimately, God can do what he likes, so I’ll leave that there.
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
Then we have our conscience and mind to make decisions. When I do something that isn’t loving, like disrespecting my very awesome parents, I feel bad. This is because God says he will shape my heart, and the spirit lives within me, although non Christians are also aware of their consciences- we’ve just got a different motivation for listening to ours. I have free will to make decisions, like deciding to be a teacher, and that feels good because I’m doing what I’m good at, but that is not outside God’s plan. It might be as simple as the fact that God wants us to have fun as we do his will, and this feeling of contentment is a blessing. All this mish mash that makes me me works together to shape what I do as well.
The steps of a man are established by the LORD, And He delights in his way.
But I have come to believe that when you are about to do something God didn’t plan, it won’t happen. To take a quick trip down a side alleyway, there is a difference between what God doesn’t want and what God didn’t plan. He doesn’t want sin- he doesn’t want me to hurt. But if he plans something, it will come to fruition, regardless of what I do or don’t do.
Take for instance, marrying that guy. I believe I follow a God who knows my heart and sympathises with my pain. He hurt as I hurt in the fall out of breaking up. But ultimately, he knew I would be stronger for it, and be more equipped to help others going through a break up. If he has a plan for me to be married, that couldn’t happen if I was still half happily dating. If he has a plan for me to be the most awesome and inspiring single woman in history, he’s well on his way to making sure that happens.
Another example is the death of Jesus- it wasn’t easy, it caused an inifinite amount of pain and it wasn’t in the plan of the executors to glorify God, and yet Gods plan was fulfilled in that Jesus could save the humans who were trying to kill him, and every other human who would ever be. Tim Keller once said “if we knew what God knows, we would ask for exactly what he gives.”
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way just as we are- but he did not sin.
I think ultimately, it’s a question of trusting God that he has you and will guide you. It’s an exercise in learning how to follow him better in every day life.
This is easy for those laughing at me and my stories of being single, but harder when I tell stories of my mum who has been disabled most of her life. She trusted God and his plan and ended up with a family, house and dog in Australia, but is still looking at a plan that includes decreasing mobility and struggles with repercussions of polio.My dad gave a sermon last year on Jesus’ response to demons, and how people still struggle with their own today, including himself- it was the biggest response I’ve seen from my church in a while, as people were touched by his candour and related to what he said. Neither of my parents asked for the struggles they have, but they have managed to use it for Gods glory. My Nan sent me an article about how my anxiety might be making me more sensitive to people’s feelings and actually make me a more helpful person- it’s not comfortable, but when I signed up to be a Christian, that wasn’t what was promised. Instead, I rejoice in being used to help people for Gods glory. It’s harder when you’re actually in the heartache, or depressed, or lonely, and your vision is clouded, but you can cling to the fact you worship a God you can trust, when the rest of the world is abandoned to just deal with their pain, or confused when their plans don’t work out and told it is meaningless.
For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Rest assured in that you can’t ruin a Gods plan and it’s a good one. This means that even when our plans fall through, there is nothing to be afraid of.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.