I confess, I’m a planner. To this end, I have purchased plenty of planners over the years. But if truth be told, I don’t think they did me much good. I mean, much of what I have planned for (or worried about) over the years, has never come to pass while so much of what has actually taken place in my life have been things I never planned for or saw coming. So much for all my time spent planning. (or worrying) No wonder Matthew 6:27 says, “Will all your worries add a single moment to your life?”
In fact, planning is not just an American or western thing – I think it’s a people thing. We all like to make our plans. It makes us feel in charge. Planning gives us the illusion of control over our lives.
We make plans for everything. We make travel plans, financial plans, educational plans, family plans, game plans, battle plans, lesson plans, emergency plans, contingency plans . . . we call those plan B or a back-up plan. (and then we make a back-up plan for our back-up plan) We even have “planning meetings” whose sole purpose is not to actually do anything, but solely to make plans to do something at a later date. We plan our future endeavors, events and directions for our workplaces, our churches, our volunteer organizations, our neighborhoods, and our communities.
Planning has even become a way to make a living. Yes, planning can be a career choice. We have travel agencies whose people plan trips for other people, event planners, wedding planners, funeral planners, financial planners, fitness planners (we call them trainers) diet planners, life planners (we call them “life coaches” and we hire them to help us make a “plan” for our lives). Developers plan out our neighborhoods and our communities while insurance salesmen help us to plan for everything that could possibly happen to us, our health, our home, our car, our pets, etc. It seems that everything we own has a warranty but we are always advised to extend or to get warranties for everything in order to “plan” for their breakdown.
Planning may be more than just an American pastime, it could be an American obsession and it is definitely big business. Still much of my own personal planning seems to be for naught. For example, this week I was scheduled to read my book to children at a local library. I showed up at the appointed time but as they say “the best laid plans . . .”. My first clue came before I even entered the library. I found myself holding the door open for a person from the zoo who was wheeling in a cart full of various small animals. Sure enough when I got inside and made contact with the person who had “planned” my reading time, I found that she had double booked the room and the time slot with the children.
Needless to say, my plans were changed in that instant. Now changes in plans are not always a bad thing. I am rescheduled to read on another day when a therapy dog will be visiting. The children will enjoy the dog while listening to the story. This sounds like a lot of fun to me and I am looking forward to this new opportunity which this “change in plans” has brought to me. This is just another reminder to me, that even when I have a good plan, God often has a better one.
Still, I persist in making my plans even though I make them just to have them fall through, fall apart, be changed, broken, re-arranged, re-scheduled or be cast aside, thrown out, never to materialize at all. It’s then the reality of these words hits home with me. “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” (Proverbs 19:21) or “But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations.” (Psalm 33:11)
My plans don’t usually hold up, but God’s plans do. I can rely on that. God said in Isaiah 46:10, “I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’ ” And I can take comfort in that fact as well. When my best laid plans fall through or fall short of my expectations, I can know that God’s plans (including His plans for me) are not thwarted and are better for me than anything I could have planned for myself.
I trust His promise in Jeremiah 29:11, ” ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ ” I just need to remember and to trust that God’s plans are better than my plans; and that God’s plans for me are better than my plans for me. Instead of being upset, I can be glad when I don’t get my own way (that sounds counter intuitive) knowing that God is in control and that His plans are better than any plans I could come up with on my own.
Job 5:12 says of God, “He thwarts the plans of the crafty, so that their hands achieve no success. He catches the wise in their craftiness, and the schemes of the wily are swept away.”
Psalm 33:10 says, “The Lord foils the plans of the nations; He thwarts the purposes of the peoples.”
We experience this reality in our everyday lives. Architects make up their plans to build the home, the church, the store, the arena, the skyscraper etc. but “Unless the Lord builds the house, its’ builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.” (battle plan?)
Our politicians wage their war of words, executing their strategies, making their battle plans as the next election approaches. They are all about plans and planning. All their time and effort is spent in formulating a plan that they believe will get them elected. Then they seek to woo us with their promised, glorious plans of what they plan to do for us once they are elected. Again, men making their plans while in Daniel we read, “Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are His. He changes times and seasons; He sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.” (Daniel 2:20-21)
Or consider the rich man in the gospel of Luke. He had a plan, a life plan and it seemed like a good one to him. (I wonder who his life coach was?) Here’s his story, “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ‘ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ (now I’m wondering if he had a good financial planner?)
A financial planner who would give him good advice like this found in Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Old habits are hard to break. I may continue to make my plans, but at least I can rest in the knowledge that my Heavenly Father will correct my steps and direct my paths.
“In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)
Let me pray along with Jeremiah, “I know, O Lord, that a man’s life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps. Correct me, Lord, but only with justice – not in Your anger, lest You reduce me to nothing.” (Jeremiah 10:23-24)
finally, Heavenly Father, grant that I would trust in You with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding; that I would acknowledge You in all my ways so that You can make my paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
I like knowing that it is You, Lord, who determines and directs my steps. I am not all that good of a planner anyway.
sincerely, Grace Day