Plans That Come to Nought

This time and season we’re living through wasn’t on the average person’s radar at the beginning of the year. Many of us will have had plans and thoughts of what we wanted to accomplish over this year, only to find that these plans have had to be delayed or abandoned permanently.

At the beginning of the year, I decided to start a computer course which I hoped would help me to get a part-time admin job. After being based at home for 20 years, I hoped that this would be the start of a new chapter of my life. However, now this seems more of a distant dream than an actual reality. With so many people looking for jobs now and in the coming months, employers will have their pick of talented people to fill their vacancies, and someone who’s stayed at home for a long time, even doing useful things, might not be at the top of their list.

A short time ago, a friend reminded me of God’s words in the book of James:

“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit” – yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that”.” James 4:13 – 15

The world encourages us to think that we are the masters of our own destiny, that whatever we want, we can get with the right amount of determination and effort. The world is our oyster, as the saying goes. We can become arrogant, thinking that everything we have and do is all down to us, to our own self-effort and skill. Those who haven’t done as well, we might look down on. They either had a bad start in life, or they just didn’t make the most of their talents. It doesn’t take a lot to remind us that we actually have very little control over the circumstances of life. This time, it’s a tiny, microscopic virus that has changed so much about our daily lives. Other times, it might be a freak accident that no-one could have foreseen, or a phone call that brings devastating news that we would never have expected in a million years.

The passage above makes clear that we aren’t the ones who are in the driving seat of our lives. Yes, we make plans, but whether they happen or not is in the Lord’s hand, not ours. We are subject to Him, not the other way around.

We don’t control where we are born; we don’t control who our parents are, or our genetic make-up. We don’t control when we were born, either. Sometimes when I look around I wonder if I would have been happier being born earlier on in history, but yet here I am now! Having said that, I’m glad for the advances in modern technology and hygiene that we have at this stage in world history!

In the book of Acts, the apostle Paul arrived in Athens to discover a multitude of idols which moved him to speak to the local people (Ch 17:16f). They had one altar labelled as being to “the unknown god”. Paul spoke to them of the greatness of this creator God, and described how He had “determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God…and find Him”. This God is not an impersonal being, because He is “not far from each one of us”. It is “in Him” that we “live and move and have our being”.

Nothing is random about our lives. Even these world events which have changed so much for so many are woven into God’s sovereign plan. Times like this force us to look at our own mortality. At many times through history, life has been threatened by illness, war, famine and drought. In the Western world, we have been cocooned from some of these disasters and have probably become complacent as a result, thinking nothing like this could happen to us. Other people in different parts of the world face the reality of human mortality on a daily basis. Perhaps this is a time when God is speaking to us through His megaphone, as C S Lewis once put it, drawing our attention away from ourselves and towards Him. None of us can know what tomorrow will bring, but there is a God who loves us and gave Himself for us who never will change and is the Author and Sustainer of the whole of human history. Security is not to be found in our earthly riches, or our intellect, our career or even our family. Real and lasting security is only to be found in Him.

We have an anchor that keeps the soul
Steadfast and sure while the billows roll
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move
Grounded firm and deep in the Saviour's love

Priscilla J Owens