There have been many times I’ve wondered where this thing is headed—live seems off the rails and I wonder who is in control. Does God have a plan for me? Are all of these things really working together for my good and His glory (Romans 8:28-29)?
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Even in Loss, He has My Gain in Mind
Imagine the scene: over 10 grieving people standing in a circle. Most of the crying, but all of them singing, “He gives and takes away. He gives and takes away… my heart will choose to say, blessed be your name.”
Every person in that circle had lost someone they loved. They all had met on this retreat to deal with their grief. Nancy and Greg, for example, had just lost their son to a drowning accident. Sue and Tom buried their collage age daughter because of an overdose, and Sean and Susan said goodbye to Susan’s mom after a brutal battle with liver cancer.
They had studied, Revelation 1:18, “I hold the keys of death and the grave,” and then they burst into song. After they finished, Greg spoke up and said through tears, “I have wanted to believe that my son’s death caught God by surprise, but now I realize he was not surprised at all.”[i]
Death has a way of forcing us to recon with God’s sovereignty in order to make sense of circumstances and have peace in the face of loss. Truth be told, anytime that our circumstances don’t seem to make sense we are forced to wonder if God has a strategy in all of this mess.
This post will answer the question, “Does God have a plan for my life?” I will do my best to clearly answer that question from a biblical perspective and then give you important application from the answer.
Let’s begin by understand first that God always has a plan. Nothing is left to chance; no molecule is outside of His rule; He created all things and therefore has all-power and all-knowledge of everything in creation.
Isaiah 46:9–11 (NLT) says,
9 Remember the things I have done in the past.
For I alone am God!
I am God, and there is none like me.
10 Only I can tell you the future
before it even happens.
Everything I plan will come to pass,
for I do whatever I wish.
11 I will call a swift bird of prey from the east—
a leader from a distant land to come and do my bidding.
I have said what I would do,
and I will do it.
Scripture is clear that God has a plan for the whole world and for each person. He is God, there is no one like Him, what He purposes and plans He will do. He knew us before we came to be (Ps. 139); before the beginning of time He had a plan for us (Romans 8:29). God’s plan is never reactive, but always preemptive. All time is present before Him at the same time—He sees all and nothing happens outside of His knowledge and power.
Still, knowing that God has a plan doesn’t fully answer our question— we still wonder, if he has a plan for me why is it that we don’t always know or understand His plan?
John Calvin spoke in terms of the double will of God. He did not mean by this that God has two wills, but that there are two ways we should think of God’s will.
First, there is the secret will of God. Before time, God designed all things for His glory and our good. We only get to know His secret will as He unfolds it in history, and even then, we know it only in part.
Second, there is the revealed will of God. This is the plan which is plainly declared in His Word. For example, He has a plan for our salvation (2 Peter 3:9), He has designed each of us to have gifts that are unique that He desires us to use (Eph. 2:10), and He has a plan for our life after death— eternity spent with Him if we have faith in Christ.
Deuteronomy 29:29 communicates the two categories of God’s will, His secret and His revealed will, saying, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.”
Related to what has been revealed — this is a gift to us; we know Him through His Word and we know what He desires us of in obedience. Yet, for the secret parts of His will must trust God has a plan, but He doesn’t always share His whole plan with us. Our lack of understanding or knowledge about what His plan doesn’t make His plan any less real. God consults no one. He has revealed some of His plan in His Word, and often it becomes clear in our circumstances through the Holy Spirit’s presence; however, there are parts of God’s plan for us that we may never understand or know.
The Bible tells us to accept God’s sovereignty by faith.
Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, Hebrews 10:38 all tell us to “live by faith”—meaning that we trust God even when we can’t seem Him or understand His ways. For God to have sovereignty means that he has absolute right to do all things because He alone has all-power and all-knowledge. “Sovereignty is God’s control over His creation… Sovereignty is God’s rule over all reality.”[ii]
A sovereign God could be a dictator (God is not). Or a sovereign could abdicate the use of his powers (God has not). Ultimately God is in control of all things, yet at times He may choose to let certain events happen according to natural laws which He has ordained, including consequence for sin and fallen nature.[iii] If there is any element of the universe that is outside of his authority, then he no longer is God over all.[iv]
While God has power over all things and knowledge of all things, He still gives us freedom within His sovereignty.
Some Christians sees God as a composer of a well-practiced orchestra; the instrumentalists are completely under the sway of the magic wand. These people are ultimately trying to affirm God’s ultimate sovereignty. Other people see God as closer to an absentee Father, that allows His children to play in the mud and have temper tantrums and does not reign them in, even when they hurt each other.
However, like all things in Christianity, the answer tends to lie as both and neither: “We are neither the authors nor the pawns of our life stories but rather given freedom within God’s will to make decisions, yet all our circumstance are under God’s providence and power.[v]
God’s sovereignty is like when you put your kids in the backyard, having a fence around their play area. They have free will, but it is within the confines of the parent’s permissive will. God gives us free will within the confines of what He desires to happen.
God Has the Big Picture in Mind
My ten-year-old son, Chandler, asking what the plan is for the day. And over breakfast, we go over the schedule and expectations. Because he knows what is going to happen, he feels more secure in the day as well as has the freedom to ask to schedule what he wants to happen in the gaps of what I’ve decided has to happen.
I think this is a good understanding of God’s plan. It leaves room for our choices, and if we know what He expects to happen, or at least that He has a plan, it is less distressing when things do not go according to our plan. We have the freedom to move, knowing that God’s plan might supersede ours, but that is because His plan is based less in whims, and more in knowing the big picture.
Though God’s sovereignty can be initially hard to accept, ultimately it is the only solid ground to stand on in this broken world. His sovereign power to redeem the suffering we experience in this sin-sick world is our only true hope and comfort. Without confidence in God’s sovereign oversight of the universe, life becomes meaningless, hope for justice fades, and everything seems random. The truth is, if God is not sovereign, then we’re in trouble. The sovereignty of God is a rock underfoot when the winds blow in our lives. It confronts what seems absurd in our existence. God’s sovereignty is our greatest hope as we face an uncertain and the unknown future.[vi]
Matthew 10:29–31 says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”
The value something is only determined by what someone is willing to pay for it. God was willing to give His Son for your soul. He values you. He knows details of your life. He loves you! Trust Him.
The powerful hand that upholds all things is the hand that was pierced for us. Jesus Christ came to save your soul and get you back on God’s plan. The death and resurrection of Christ invites you to trust Him with your life. When you see Christ as God, there is deep comfort to know that He sees what you cannot see that He has purposes greater than any of your plans.
Do you Want a Life Coach or the Lord?
We often want God to be our life coach rather than our Lord. We want three to five helpful tips on how to live an easier or more pleasure-filled life. We want maximum freedom for ourselves, but we want His controlling interventions when something is going wrong. It is always about us. We forget that our comfort is not our end. His glory is our goal.
We would love a god who is more like a self-help app or a life coach we can text for guidance. We want minute-by-minute advice, but we don’t want Him to control us. We want a “take it or leave it” contract with God, but that is because we probably have grown to think we are sovereign over our own destiny instead of God.
We forget that faith might look messy, and that we might not have our entire life plan unravel before our eyes in a moment. Yet trusting God’s plan instead of our own is the call of true faith. We must step forward with both confidence and uncertainty. God has conquered death through his Son on the cross, yet we still live in a fallen world and are amid a spiritual war between good and evil. We must please the Lord with our decisions and amaze Him with our faith. We must never forget that He’s sovereign over us.[vii]
[i] Adapted from this true story at the beginning of this article, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/he-holds-the-keys-to-death/ accessed on May 2, 2020
[ii] Geisler, Dr. Norman. Systematic Theology, Vol 2., 536.
[iii] Ryrie, Charles. Basic Theology, 43
[iv] Sproul, R.C. Now That’s A Good Question.
[v] Ortberg, All the Places, 3-4.
[vi] https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/he-holds-the-keys-to-death/ accessed on May 2, 2020