Suburban Christian Ideas, Or God’s Master Plan For Your Life

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

This entry was posted in Deconstructing Big Fancy Religious Systems, Wayward North American Church. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Suburban Christian Ideas, Or God’s Master Plan For Your Life

  1. Jason says:

    If I believe God is God…all-powerful and able to do anything He wishes to do…then my personal belief is that it’s silly to think He couldn’t have a plan for each of our lives. Does that mean He does? No. But saying a God who is the God of the Bible can’t or doesn’t do it seems like it doesn’t have a basis.

    Unfortunately, that position doesn’t fit into a neat little box.

    • oh he most certainly could have a plan for everyone – he has that ability- he could effortlessly be a master weaver intertwining the endless stories unfolding. I was trying to say that our emphasis on that ability naturally led many to think he has a plan – because of he has the ability. I was merely pointing out that people have a basis for believing it.

  2. Chris says:

    This is interesting.

    I once read a book by Kevin DeYoung (of Why We’re Not Emergent fame) entitled:
    “Just Do Something-A Liberating Approach To Finding God’s Will, Or (you should like that Charlie), How To Make a Decision Without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Impressions, Open Doors, Random Bible Verses, Casting Lots, Liver Shivers, Writing In The Sky, Etc.”

    How’s that for a title.

    Anyway the premise of the book is that too many people spend so much time trying to find God’s “plan” for their lives that they actually can become paralyzed. They should stop looking for signs and listening for promptings and just get on with the business of living. You don’t need to hear a “word” or get the okay for every move you’re thinking about making. Should I move to that neighborhood over there? Do I go to this school or that one?, etc., etc. People tinker with churches, jobs, relationships worrying that they haven’t found God’s perfect plan. The synopsis on the back of the book summed it up well. Basically, He’s already revealed His plan for our lives: to love Him with our whole hearts, to obey His Word, and after that, to do what we like.

    “We can stop pleading with God to show us the future, being confident that he holds the future.”

    • such a good word for some of today’s Christians. Sorry if I’ve used this example before – but when I graduated high school I had NO CLUE what I was going to do. You know how some people enter college undeclared but have somewhat of a direction – well I was far from that. After taking a semester off I just enrolled because I knew if I waited around for the direction to come to me, I’d be waiting for a decade. So I just got up and started, trusting it would come. Even then it took 2 full years of college before I got it. So though I started one of Kevin DeYoung’s books but couldn’t get more than 40 pages into it, I am very much so with him on this one. I didn’t realize he wrote a book about that, that’s rad. I know too many people who sat around wondering what God’s will was using that unknowingly as an excuse to do nothing. Very paralyzing.

  3. I believe in the sovereignty of God, but I also do not doubt that we make decisions based on our own will. Our church culture wants to split these two concepts, but I’m not sure we have too. I could not begin to suggest that I completely understand how the two concepts coexist, but from what I read, they seem to. I was brought up to emphasize one concept over the other. Which one was more important is irrelevant, but I bet you could guess how that played out.

    • I think someone could believe God has a plan for each person without being a Calvinist saying that God has destined each person.

      As for the predestination debate – both have a basis in scripture so it’s not an and/or kind of thing (I lean far heavily toward arminianism but it’d be silly to deny some of the calvinistic stuff in the Bible)

  4. David says:

    I know that God has a plan for my life. It is well tailored to suit who he has made me.

    The problem is that most Christians try to fix the old man, and in the process follow his plans and desires. This is where the shipwreck occurs. We are supposed to let the old man die, and release the new one who should be full of the Holy Spirit.

    He has counted the hairs on my head, he knit me in my mother’s womb, and he knows me and desires that I will know him.

    My job as a son is to be one. Being a son is a wonderful thing. Part of it is loving the Father, and part of it is obeying the Father. All of it is relationship with the Creator who is deep, loving and full of glory.

    We are back to hearing God for yourself. Without it, all you can have is religion.

  5. SjG says:

    Good reflections. They remind me of Jerry Sittser’s book _The Will of God as a Way of Life,_ in which he recalls a period in his life where he was faced with the decision whether to become a pastor or a doctor (I think… The details are fuzzy as it’s been a while since I read it). He fretted and stewed over it, obsessed with trying to figure out what on earth God’s will for him was. Finally his wife essentially said to him, “I don’t care whether you become a pastor or doctor. I just want my husband back!”

    In his desire to know and do God’s will, he was neglecting God’s will that he be a faithful husband and father. He was so consumed by the big picture that he was missing out on the countless ways to do and live God’s will in the present moment. What’s more, both options – pastor AND doctor – could have been within God’s will; that is, God would have used Jerry to advance the Kingdom regardless of which profession Jerry chose.

    His story reminds me to consider how I’m loving God and loving others at this present moment. Sure, I need to think “big picture” sometimes, but if I cannot do God’s will in everyday life, how can I ever think I’ll ever figure out God’s “big picture” for me?!


  6. Amy says:

    I have no idea what God has planned for my life anymore, which sort of makes me need to rely on Him.

    A random aside…I hate when authors smack pictures of themselves on the front covers of their books, unless the book is a memoir. I mean, are we marketing an image or a book about God? Hmm….

  7. Rach says:

    One thing that helped me get out of that individualistic thinking was that:
    God does not have a plan for MY life, he/she wants me to join in to the big plan he/she has with ALL of creation together, collectively, the restoration and bringing forth the Kingdom 🙂
    We are just pieces in the big fat puzzle.
    And there will always be things that we are lead towards but it’s not a specific type thing. Mine is that I feel like I am called to draw the beauty out, to make it known.
    That can play out in many different ways/vocations, so I chose hairdressing. someone else I know feels that he is called to heal, he’s currently studying nursing, but again, different vocations, whatever.

    I think thats the awesome freedom God gives us!

  8. Rach says:

    A the awesomeness of being in unity with all of the good stuff God has created 🙂

  9. Lisa L says:

    There’s no question He has a plan. Absolutely no question. Have you ever received a personal prophetic word for your life through another believer that later became reality? I have on several occasions. God spoke to them, they spoke to me and it happened. God knows you intimately and how you are wired. You are fearfully and wonderfully made for a purpose. You have a destiny, specific gifts, and a calling on the earth and for all eternity….designed for you and you alone by your Father.

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