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  • Writer's pictureRichard A. Jones

God Has a Wonderful Plan For Your Life—Or Does He?

Updated: Feb 2

Some of what I say in this post, I have said before. I hope you will bear with me as I elaborate on it in a little different context.

Bill Bright started Campus Crusade at UCLA in 1951. In 1952 he published a tract called The Four Spiritual Laws. In it he stated what he believed were the principles of Christian faith and relationship with God. The first of the four was this: “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.”  In the years to come, college students took to the beaches during Spring Break with the message.

These beaches were primarily populated with upper middle class and wealthy college students who had time and money to indulge themselves in such activity. Whether or not it was Bill Bright’s original intent or not, those who accepted the message began trying to discover the details of God’s “wonderful plan” for them, or “God’s will” for their lives.

This often included what job God wanted them to have, where God wanted them to live, the person God wanted them to marry, and a myriad of other concerns that were of great importance to themselves, and therefore, or so it was assumed, of great importance to God.

How would they be able to know God’s plan for them? They would know by interpreting certain signs, clues, and open and closed doors that they assumed God was sending into the circumstances of their lives to guide them.

Living in Westcliffe, Colorado for 50 years, I can not even count the number of times I have heard some version of this: "When we saw that beautiful view of the Sangre De Cristo Mountains, we knew that this is where God wanted us to live.”

A boy who kept encountering a girl (mostly because he liked her and was looking for her) might see this as God putting the girl in his path to show him that they were meant to be together. If the process of a job application and interview went smoothly, it could be viewed as a sign from God that this was the job He had chosen for them.

An unexpected opportunity could be seen as God leading them in a certain direction. If they found an extremely good deal (for them, not the seller) on a house it meant that God wanted them to buy it.

If the circumstances surrounding a decision fell easily into place, it was God opening a door; if obstacles arose, or things became difficult, God was closing the door.

Having God lead them to things that he had already decided for them, seemed to give people comfort that God was managing their lives for them, and that they were following God’s will or plan for them.

And so, for over 70 years this seems to have been standard theology for many conservative evangelical Christians. Phrases such as “God led me here”, “God guided me to that”, “God put me in this job, “God sent them to me,” “God worked out the details for me”, “God provided this house for me”, or “I’m waiting to see what God wants me to do,” have become mantras of the spiritually minded person.

This seems like a lot about me for a faith claiming to be based on the one who said, “...deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow...”

As time went on faith for some, seemed to fit the model well. The plan for their lives that God had chosen for them did seem truly wonderful. Others, when the plan did not suit them, began to feel that God was “re-directing” them, so they used the same method for discerning “God’s revised plan” for their lives. Still others decided that God’s plan wasn’t all that wonderful, and gave up on God and his plan altogether.

Is God’s main purpose and concern to fulfill the self-serving desires of individual Christians? Where, in Scripture, has God’s will or an open door been identified by circumstances working out smoothly and easily? I Corinthians 16:9: A great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me. I wouldn’t exactly call the life of Jesus working out smoothly and easily.

Does God have a wonderful plan for everyone, or only for middle and upper class American Christians? Are the starving children of Haiti, Zambia, and Ethiopia living God’s wonderful plan for them? Have the slaves of Sudan and the diamond mines of Sierra Leone discovered God’s will for their lives? Does God’s will include health, wealth, ease, and happiness for some and poverty, oppression, and pain for others? Does God’s plan include disease, tragedy, and suffering?

Someone has said, “Any theology that does not embrace the burning children of the holocaust is wrong.”  In other words, if it does not apply to them; it does not apply to me.

For 440 years the people of Israel were slaves in Egypt making bricks for the Pharaoh. God promised deliverance, but eleven Generations died in the mud pits with that promise on their lips.

Could it be possible to over-personalize God’s promises and blessings, and then see God’s purpose as primarily concerned about the circumstances of my own life? When did this shift begin to occur? When did faith rather than being about what I am doing for God, begin to focus on what God is doing for me?

A country song by Loretta Lynn says:

Well, I've heard people say

"Why is this tree bent?"

They don't have God enough to know

That's the way that it was meant

And, "why is this little baby born

All twisted and out of shape?"

We're not to question what he does

'Cause God makes no mistakes

Well, I've heard people say

"Why is my child blind?

Why is that old drunk still livin'

When a daddy like mine is dyin'?"

Our blessed Father gives us life

But he has the power to take it away

There's no reason for what he does

'Cause God makes no mistakes...

Personally, I don’t believe the song. God may make no mistakes, but everything that happens is not done by God.

I believe that God is accountable to Himself. He cannot deny his own character, or “the unchanging nature of his purpose...” (Hebrews 6:7).  And God’s unchanging purpose in Jesus is to “...reconcile all thing to himself.”  (Colossians 1:20).  It is as the Old Testament declares, “God is not a man that he should change his mind.”

Note—To speak of God’s “permissive will,” as some Christians do, is a mute issue. everything that happens is, of course, allowed by God.  However, this tells us nothing of any value.

Everything that God does is good, and we do not have to twist and distort the meaning of good in order to defend what God does. I believe that there is a reason for what God does. His reason is always love and the reconciliation of good.

And while God can bring good out of evil, he does not initiate evil in order to bring about good.

In fact, Scripture says that death is the enemy of God. God does not give life and take it away. It is only in God’s nature to give life; death is an intruder into what God does. There are other reasons for the reality of pain, suffering, and death which I will not discuss here.

In the Genesis story of creation God said, “you may eat from any tree in the garden but one.” God did not pre-decide which tree for them to eat from on Tuesday.

God commissioned Adam to name the animals. “...And whatever the man called it, that was its name.”  We do not read of the man praying: “Lord, what is your will for this big grey one with the trunk?”

I don’t really believe that passage of Scripture is about a man sitting on a rock, pointing and saying cow, goat, and bear. In the creation story, the seed of life is planted, and the implications are profound. As those created in God’s likeness, we are given the gift and responsibility of naming life.  And whatever we call it, it will be.

I think that our choices and decision have real meaning. We are not just living out a pre-written script and neither is God dangling a carrot on a sick to see if we can guess what he wants us to do, or what he has already chosen for us.

I don’t believe that God cares where I live; I do think He cares how I live. I don’t think he cares what job I have; I do think He cares how I do my job.  I don’t believe He is concerned about whom I marry, or if I marry; If I do, I think He is concerned about what kind of marriage I make of it.

Just because God has the power to control everything, does not mean that He does control everything. In other words, I don’t think that God created life in order to micro-manage it.

It seems to me that the greatest act of sovereignty is the willingness to lay it down for the sake of a higher good. Relationship, love, faith, and goodness, only have meaning when they arise from personal and real choices.

Of course, this also means that wrong choices are possible and that the choices of some may adversely affect and even destroy the lives of others. War, poverty, pain, disease, tragedy, and suffering in this world are not God’s will for anyone! They are because of human choice gone wrong and the brokenness of creation. I think that God must weep with us.   

Yes, God does love us, and I believe that there will come a time when our Creator will reclaim his very good creation that has been, for millennia, at the mercy of many wrong but very real human choices.

Until then, I am called to claim my full humanity and take ownership of my decisions and choices. Jesus prayed, “Father... your kingdom come, your will be done on earth...”  The kingdom of God will not come to earth because everything falls into place “smoothly and easily,” but because his followers are learning to lay aside their own comfort, pleasure, and rights to partner with Jesus in bringing about the reconciliation of all things to God’s purpose.

Maybe our problem is not in knowing God’s will, but in doing it. Maybe while we are looking for God to manage our lives and bring personal fulfillment, God’s will is calling us to stop focusing so much on ourselves and live as peace makers, truth speakers, and hope givers in this broken world in which we live, until the time when all things are reconciled to out Creator's purpose.



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