This is something I have been meaning to write for a long time. Being in seminary, and growing up in the Evangelical church, I have heard people discussing this topic far too many times in what I think to be all the wrong ways. Strains of conversations sound something like this: “Well, I just want to make sure I’m following God’s plan.” “I have to pray and seek his will before I make any decisions.” “What if my boyfriend isn’t the one God has planned for me?” And so on. I’ve even heard this kind of talk in the most painful situations: “[So and so’s] death is all part of God’s plan and if we let him, God will teach us what purpose he meant it for.”
I have known people who have lived their lives almost immobilized because they have been waiting to hear from God about what they are to do next in their lives. And what I have seen happen far too many times, is these people do not do anything. They have spent their lives waiting. And I believe that living in constant wait is wasting the life that God has given us.
We have been blessed with life from God. This is something I firmly believe in. And I also believe that we are to use this blessing in a way that honors God. And part of that is using the free will that is instilled in us to make decisions. If we do not take action in our lives, we are not honoring God.
I think of it like this: all parents have an idea of how their relationship with their child will be, the kind of things their child will love and do, and the perfect life they have available to them. But every good parent knows that while they might have a “plan” of sorts for their child, ultimately, it is up the child, once grown, to make decisions for themselves, and it might not look like what the parent had thought it would. But, they also realize that their child’s life is not theirs to control. Some parents try to do that, and the relationship becomes broken. No parent wishes bad things for their child in hopes that it will teach them a lesson of sorts. This would be bad parenting and trust would be broken.
I believe that our relationship with God is in a similar vein, at least in this respect. God does have a plan for us, but it is a plan of redemption, and of relationship with him through Jesus Christ. But I do not think he has a plan for us in the way that so many Evangelicals I know think. He does not have a plan for where you live, where you go to school, or what your job is. I do believe, however, that he is able to use the choices we make about these things and do good things through them. And when bad things happen, it is a consequence of the fallen nature of humankind and the poor decisions we often make, not because of God. This I firmly believe.
God has plans for a beautiful relationship with him, just like he had for Israel in the Old Testament. But just like Israel, we often make decisions—because of our free will!—that mar what could be. When consequences or bad things happen because of those decisions, we cannot blame God. He did not plan for those bad things to happen. But God can use situations we’ve gotten ourselves into, or use the brokenness in the world for his good. That is his plan. His plan is to bring us closer to him, and to care for us, and to be a loving Father to us. His plan was to overcome sin and death through his son and re-open the pathway to him that we closed so long ago in the garden. But his plan is not to order every detail in your life: where you go, whom you’re friends with, etc. Those decisions have been left up to you. So please, I beg of you, do not sit around wondering and agonizing over whether or not you are living in God’s will. Live your life in a way that honors God by loving people and loving Him, and I assure you, that is the only thing God desires from us. Go and live your life.