Does God have a plan for us?
A lot of people believe He does, and generally speaking, I have been one of them.
There is a tendency to evaluate our relationship with God based on the things that happen to us in our lives: when good things happen, it’s comforting to think that we have earned God’s favor. When bad things happen, we either assume we are being punished, or we explain it away by saying that all things happen according to God’s will, which is beyond human understanding.
I had a lot of these ideas during my career as a singer. I had certain physical and intellectual gifts which gave me advantages over other colleagues, and fantastic opportunities seemed to materialize from nowhere at lucky moments. There was a steady progression to my blossoming career, each step on the ladder more challenging, more important, more exciting, and more promising. I had a sense that what was befalling me was “meant to be.”
And then it all collapsed. Though I had always been borderline neurotic about taking care of my voice and my body, suddenly it seemed as though they were at war with one another. Through the scourge of acid reflux, my stomach attacked my throat. Each night as I slept, my dreams and hopes were slowly eaten away.
Why was this happening to me? Had I offended God? Was it a test? Temporary setback? Or was it a message that God wanted me doing something else? I think the only possibility I didn’t contemplate was that my misfortune was random and essentially meaningless.
I have always had the idea that God has a plan for us. In many places, the Bible tells us not to worry about our lives, but rather to put our trust in God. Many Christians believe in a “plan.” And I’m not saying there isn’t one.
But lately, this idea of “a” plan has been holding me back. I have been struggling to determine just what “the plan” is, what I am “supposed” to be doing, wondering whether “the plan” is something that is just going to happen at some point, or what. Do I search for it, or wait for it? Or, is this it?
If there is “a plan” for each of us, then why does an infinitely loving and compassionate God subject us to tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes, plane crashes, heart attacks, or school shootings? Did those little Amish girls die according to God’s will? Was that the plan that was worked out for them from before Creation?
Last night in my bible study we were discussing whether God is “in control” of the world. The priest suggested we view God’s interaction with us in terms of “purpose,” rather than “plan.” And suddenly a light went on.
If we are all subject to “the plan,” then in a sense we are putting our faith in a God who uses violence and tragedy to further his will (which, depending on how much stock you put into the Old Testament, is a supportable idea). Why does a God who loves us all equally “plan” for some of us to be rich and comfortable, but most of us poor and miserable? There is an inherent inequity in the concept of “God’s plan” that can only be, and often is, explained as humanly incomprehensible.
But with the idea of purpose, there is complete equity. It’s a subtle but important distinction. We all have the same purpose (to love and serve one another), but each of us can serve that purpose in our own way. If there’s a plan, how can we have free will? But through free will, we can choose to fulfill our purpose.
These are new thoughts for me, not fully worked out. But I felt immediately relieved. Perhaps my previous career aspirations weren’t thwarted by divine intervention. Perhaps I don’t have to sit here and wait for God’s plan to start making me happy. Perhaps I can best serve God’s purpose by making my own plan.