Anyone who’s ever received a tract from a stern-faced evangelizer has read the words “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” High school graduate receive a small book written just for them containing innumerable references to Jeremiah 29:11 which says
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
For some, central to the Christian message is not only that Jesus offers forgiveness for sins, but also a key that unlocks the map for your life’s course.
Now, you’ll never hear me dispute God’s love – but I’ve got some serious questions about God having a plan for my life. This isn’t to say that God doesn’t care about our lives or what we do, or that our lives are random and meaningless – but rather that God gave us our own lives to design* and live out as a gift.
I can easily see how this idea developed. When we talk about our Maker who is in control and who is omniscient and omnipotent you can quickly begin to imagine that God has set the course of everything in the world. Much of my teenage years were spent sitting in uncertainty wondering what God had designed my life to look like – and there are plenty of books out there outlining ways to figure it out.
Part of the beauty of life is that it all started naked and undeveloped, ripe to be cultivated and built upon. I think God enjoys seeing what we do with our lives and longs to walk alongside of us when it comes to planning our lives – and has little desire to do that work for us. Though he certainly could plan it all out for us – it’s not for lack of capability – God made us in his image, not to merely follow a line.
Ultimately I think the idea that God has a plan designed for each and every person on earth, if only they’d follow him, is a Suburban Christian idea. It fits into a safe and neatly trimmed idea of life, but I think we can get lost trying to figure out God’s plan for our lives and neglect God’s will for his church – to love. Though may God have a direction and a will that doesn’t necessarily translate into having your life mapped out. God made you to be you, not set everything up on your behalf.
(As for Jeremiah 29:11, which you may have inscribed on a picture frame, it’s a verse written to the Jews reminding them of his promises.)
Really I could turn this topic into a 6 part post because there is so much to explore (and if you do believe God has a specific plan for your life I haven’t tried hard to persuade you). Let me know in the comments if you’d like to hear more of my liberalism.
Do you think God has planned out your life? Do you think he has a plan for everyone’s life? If so, how have you seen him outline that plan (that is not a malicious question but a genuine one).
*that doesn’t mean whatever we say goes, so just go party it up