It's a favorite phrase among American Christians that God has a plan. But I've been thinking lately that's a bit of a misnomer. I like to plan. I like to figure out how to best maximize my time and resources to accomplish my priorities. I really like to plan because I want to be purposeful with my short time on earth. That's why we like to say that God has a plan, too--we believe He has a good purpose for the things that happen, one beyond our understanding. And surely that is important to believe.
But a conversation with a new friend the other day made me think, "You know, if God really does have a plan, why doesn't He make it more clear, at least our part of it?" I struggled for a long time deciding where to go to college because I wanted to follow God's plan and didn't know what it was. Even as I approached college graduation and was pursuing the mission field, I struggled because, again, I felt I should go into missions, but what was God's plan? And then even reflecting on my life, moving over a dozen times growing up, and TEN3's struggles as we pursue inlets in certain communities only to see them fizzle, my thought became something like, "If this is the plan, it's the most convoluted plan I've ever heard of."
Which has gotten me thinking that to say God has a "plan" isn't quite accurate. Plans are for efficiency, for accomplishing particular goals on a particular timeline in a particular way. Plans require contingencies. If God just had a plan, what hope would we have, since we'd inevitably mess it up?
I can't think of any Bible verse that says God has a plan*. It does, however, have a great deal to say about how He is at work in everything--waters, winds, and earth, plants, animals, and people (Ps. 104), all that happens (Is. 44:7), lies and schemes and politics and settlements (Is. 44:24-28), wars and weather, light and darkness (Is. 45), death and life, rising and falling (1 Sam 2:1-10). And the purpose that we see, expressed over and over in Scripture, is that all people "may know that I am the LORD." We also see throughout the Bible that we can accomplish this in either of two ways: by being His faithful servants, shining out His glory for people to see, or by being disobedient and displaying for the world that sin brings death and destruction, showing by example that life in Him is better.
That's why I think now that God doesn't have a "plan" for our lives in the sense of having a clean system of accomplishing specialized goals for us. Rather, He has a purpose, to be known. And He is sometimes known best in the convoluted mess, in our failures and struggles and frustrations, in the messy business that is life and death. In all those things, He will accomplish that purpose through us, whether we cooperate and join in the glory and love He fills the earth with, or refuse and show the world how horrible sin is.
Update: I later remembered that the oft-quoted Jer. 23:19 does say God has plans for His people. But the passage as a whole (which I really wish people would study; it's become my pet peeve when this verse is quoted out of context) still supports my overall point: God works His purposes in all that happens, which will work unto life or death for us, depending on how we respond to Him.