I met up with a good friend recently. We’ve been friends a long time and pretty much grew up together. We met in youth group, played basketball, took road trips together, graduated high school, and went off to different colleges and careers but remained close. Since then we’ve been in each other’s weddings, had kids, and have shared in the joys and trials of family, parenting, church, health issues, etc. When we got together recently, we reminisced about past times but we mainly talked about how every stage of life has its challenges for which there is no instruction manual or playbook. That may be pretty obvious as we all know life is unpredictable. Even though we try to set goals or map out our lives or control our kids’ activities so that things turn out a certain way, things often don’t go as planned. Proverbs 19:21 says “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” The Message translation says “We humans keep brainstorming options and plans, but God’s purpose prevails.”
Are you a planner? When you want something done, do you organize exactly how you want things to go? When you take a trip, do you like to map out what to do in advance? I do. Unfortunately, the things I plan don’t always achieve the results I expect. The other day I asked my daughter, Ellie (10), if she remembered our trip to the Grand Canyon (thinking that was a special time). Her response was “well not really but I remember the place with the big pancakes” (sigh). Or are you more spontaneous? Are you inclined to dive into things and work out the details on the fly? Both approaches have their strengths. In fact, Scripture seems to support both at times. Interestingly Proverbs 21:5 seems to counterbalance the earlier verse by saying “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.” Clearly planning for the future is important. However, since life is unpredictable, I think Proverbs is telling us how to be better planners:
- Align your plans with the Lord – Whether you’re making career or financial plans or plans for your family or ministry, bring them before the Lord. As you think about the future, ask the Lord for direction, check your plans against His Word, and listen for His voice. Try not to act hastily. Often it takes time to hear the Lord’s voice and to align our motives and expectations with His.
- Adapt and be flexible – These are keys to moving forward in general, aren’t they? It’s all too easy to get stuck when things don’t go as planned. Be open to what God may do. While it is wise to make plans for the future, remember that He may change your course as He sees fit. Sometimes we need to hold our plans loosely. I think teachability to what God is doing in our lives is also important. The sociologist Alvin Toffler observed that the illiterate of the future will not be those that cannot read or write. Rather, they will be those that cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn as life changes.
- Finally, rest assured that God’s purpose will prevail – In the course of our lives, we will make mistakes and poor planning decisions at times. Isn’t it great to know that God will ultimately have His way? This is what Proverbs 19:21 is saying. In His sovereignty, He will conform our plans to His. This is a great source of comfort for us who want to see God have His way in our lives. Many outcomes are not in our control but God is faithful. The Apostle Paul reaffirms this in Romans 8:28 when he says “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Yes there is no instruction manual or playbook for all of life’s circumstances. Who knows what to do when your child remembers the pancake but not the Grand Canyon? Seriously, so many things don’t go as we planned, including most everything so far in 2020. But praise God for His sovereign grace in our lives that can redeem our plans and make all things work for our good and His purpose.