“God has a plan for your life.” Well, what does that mean?
A “plan” can a blueprint, worked out down to the number of nails needed. Or “plan” can be more general. “I plan to go to the beach vacation this summer.” “I want my child to go to college.” In what sense does God have a plan for our lives? How flexible is it? Does he micromanage or does God guide things toward his purpose responding to our choices?
I punch my selected destination into my GPS device. It finds a preferred route. If I miss suggested turn, it ‘”recalculates.” It seems to me that omniscience implies, not that God knows every detail of what is going to happen, but God knows every possible combination of misturns we could make and can still get us to the destination. We may not get there in as good a time. We may end up taking rough roads. Our choices do have consequences . But God can make a way to the abundant life God wants for us, and for which deep inside us we yearn . Even if to get there we sometimes may just have to turn around.
In C. S. Lewis’ Narnian Chronicles more than once a character asks Aslan what would have happened if they had followed his advise. Aslan always replies that it is not for us to know or waste life speculating what might have been, but to deal with the way things are. It does no good wondering what the trip would have been if you had not made the wrong turn.
God’s promise in Jeremiah 29, “I know my plans for you” is not the declaration of a blueprint or finished script for our lives, but the promise of a broad intention to bless. A promise roomy enough for several versions to be possible. A promise that leaves room for our freedom, our collaboration.
We may go through valleys of shadow to get there, but the shepherd goes with us and can always lead us home to the bright table spread with overflowing cups. “And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”