Have you ever heard the saying “God has a plan for you?” Lately, I have been hearing it in conversations about people going through struggles.
When something bad happens we sometimes find comfort in saying whatever happened is part of God’s plan, as sort of a cop-out. Believing God was somehow in charge of causing bad things to happen apparently makes things okay, makes the pain more bearable.
We tell ourselves God would not bring about a burden that we cannot handle. After all, God has our best interests in mind, thus, He surely has a good reason for making terrible things happen.
When my aunt died a couple years ago from a sudden spread of cancer, I found comfort in telling myself God had planned it because as a result those who were close to my aunt grew closer to God.
In these situations it’s helpful to properly understand how God works. God is a loving God. He does not intentionally cause bad things. He pains when we are in pain. God does not take our loved ones away. To blame God for causing such death or other horrible occurrences is to misunderstand how God works and to misunderstand God’s plan. Instead of asking why God allows bad things to happen, we ought to ask why bad things happen in general.
We get in the habit of blaming God when things go haywire. We also attribute it to God when wonderful things happen. We think God causes everything because we are told God is all-powerful and omnipotent.
God wants us to be our unique self and gives us the freedom to live as we want, as long as we also abide by His plan.
There is no doubt God is all-powerful, but just because He can do anything doesn’t mean He does everything. God might indeed have the power to take our loved ones away, but that doesn’t mean he will or even wants to. God might be all-powerful, but there are certain things that He does not control. Does God control what you will eat for lunch tomorrow?
God has the power to do anything and He chooses to directly cause miracles, but when He wants to do or cause something, He usually calls on us to work on His behalf.
To say that God has a plan for us does not mean God has already planned your life for you down to the finest detail.
God wants our own plan to match up with His plan.
God does not choose how you live. Although God created us to live according to His plan, He gives us the freedom to choose our own plan. In fact, God created us with the distinct quality of freewill. In Harold Kushner’s famous book, Why Bad Things Happen to Good People, we are reminded of God’s intentions when he created humans.
Kushner gives a Biblical explanation from the book of Genesis that God intentionally created humans different from animals by giving us freedom of will, the mental ability to choose between good and bad. This innate quality led Adam and Eve to choose to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, which they were not supposed to eat from. Thus, we have the story of human sin.
The fact that God created us the way he did says something truthful about God’s role in our lives. We determine how we live because we have choice, which means some of what happens to us is the result of our own doing. Another chunk of what happens to us, according to Kushner, is caused by random chance, believe it or not.
The point is, there is a difference between the plan we have for our life and the plan God has for our life.
The Bible says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope,” (Jeremiah 29:11). God’s plan for us needs to be understood more as an approach to life that we need to choose, rather than being understood literally as a predetermined plan that we have no say in.
God’s plan for us has to do with us choosing to follow Him, to believe that Jesus is our way to God, and to live according to His purposes. God’s plan for us is to end up in Heaven, to have eternal life, and to use our time on Earth as preparation for our time in Heaven. God’s plan has more to do with being a Christian and spreading the Gospel than it does with causation.
God wants our own plan to match up with His plan.
God wants us to be our unique self and gives us the freedom to live as we want, as long as we also abide by His plan. We can choose our career and pursue our own goals, as long as we have faith in Him, give Him praise, and encourage others to do the same. In this way it is more appropriate to understand God’s plan as God’s “way.”
We can follow our own plan, as long as we do it in God’s way.
The Bible endorses this thought. Proverbs 16:9 tells us, “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps,” (New Living Translation). To illustrate this verse and the message of this article, I will end with an example.
Down the road of life, God’s way is the road. You can go in any direction you choose to and follow your own plan, as long as you stay on the road. If you follow the road, if you live the way God wants you to, there is a nice gift waiting at the end of the road, heaven.
If and when you fall off the road, God welcomes you back with open arms.