“God has a plan for you” is a phrase widely used nowadays (well, depending on what circles you find yourself in). This gives you a sense of security, of knowing that God cares and that He has the best in mind for you, you are being told. As long as you know what His plan for you is and stay within its limits you will experience the best life can offer. And on and on, in various ways, you are being sold (better yet, brainwashed into believing in) a certain kind of God. When probed a bit, the idea of a plan for you is pretty vague. You don’t really know what exactly is, but are told whenever things are going well, you are within God’s plan and when things go bad you are off limits, you need to repent and get back into the rail.
I am wondering if people take the time or the courage to ask themselves what this really says about God and about us and see if they really believe this. In other words, to inquire about the theology behind this idea. Well, that’s what I am going to do now.
First observation on “God has a plan for you” construct is the deterministic view of God it implies. In other words God has already decided all the details of how things will happen and watches its unfolding. Those who actually do believe this knowingly, talk about God’s predestination and usually you can find them in the Calvinistic theological camps. Yes, we’re talking about the old age debate of predestination and free will. Don’t worry if you don’t understand this, I will explain. I just wanted to position these (for those theologically inclined) ideas in their proper place.
The second observation is that it effectively rules out true freedom of choice. If everything is predetermined there’s not much choice we are left with. This is why some have gone to this theological construct logical conclusion and say that some people are predestined (decided in advance) to be on God’s side (going to heaven) and others are not (going to hell). Some say there is a choice: get with the program or not. Hmmm …
Now here’s the issue I have with all of this. First, the Scriptures show a God who is constantly changed in His course of actions by people’s decisions. They speak of a God who does not only allow, but encourages people’s creativity and desire in crafting a future they can enjoy with God. People are not depicted as robots executing a predetermined plan, but are asked to make God a part of their life, to think with God in mind.
- The relationship between people and God is better captured by the metaphor of a dance: both parties affect each other as new movements are created.
Secondly, I don’t know about you, but I don’t see (from my experience) life as a uniform unfolding of a predetermined master design. I am talking about the day-to-day life. There is variety. There is order and there is chaos, there is beauty and there is ugliness. You think your life is going one direction and then it changes on you. You can see how choices you’ve made has gotten you to where you are now to the degree you can pretty much trace it all and yet you see things that just don’t make sense. Choices that have had clear consequences in the past produce surprising new outcomes. We speak of God’s grace when things turn good when expected to be bad and we’re left speechless when they turn bad when expected to be good.
Does that point to a God who lost control, who is not sovereign and so can’t be God? Not necessarily, unless you believe in a deterministic God. What if God created intentionally this flexibility into the nature of life? What if God doesn’t have a predetermined plan for my life but left things open on purpose to see what I will do? How long is it going to take to realize that I can’t do this without God? That eventually I will realize that going on life’s adventure is better with God alongside. That together we can craft a wonderful life (with bad and good, with suffering and excitement). What if when sometimes asked what to do next God’s answer is: whatever you choose is fine with me. This kind of life is more exciting to me, more thrilling than living with the frustration of trying to figure God’s plan for me.
- Life seems to be more of an adventure than a production line
Instead of looking to understand God’s plan, maybe it would be better to understand His desire. That sounds more like a love relationship, doesn’t it?