Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. (James 4:14)
We live in a culture in which people plan ahead. Whether it’s scheduling a faraway vacation, waiting for a big tax refund, or looking at our calendars to see what we’ll be doing on a given day, we plan our lives to suit our interests and desires, and expect things to turn out the way we foresee. I am the first to admit that when life rolls along according to predictable routines, I feel more settled, more purposeful, and even more happy and able to embrace life. It is empowering to know what’s around the next corner, and I find security in that knowledge.
Addressing the boastful planning he observed in his day, James labeled it as evil (James 4:15). He declares the sobering truth that our lives are but a mist that vanishes (4:16), and that we have no claim to even the next day of our lives. Planning and preparing are activities to be surrendered to the Lord, for he can take our lives away just as he gave them to us. His will is sovereign, and ours is to be submitted to his. It is humbling and convicting for me to look back on my life and see how the Lord’s version of my journey has been by far the better course over the most promising of my big plans. I have often thought that if things had turned out in ways I had previously hoped, I could have been faced with more troubles than I had ever expected. I am also thankful for the many life events of which I had no foresight. The ones God gave me the needed resources to surmount when they occurred, but which would have terrified me if I had known in advance they were coming.
I don’t think we are supposed to sit around waiting, never making any plans and taking no action. What’s important is knowing our place in the world, our smallness compared to our heavenly Father, and accepting that even our sharpest capabilities are feeble compared to his (see 1 Cor 1:20-25). When God’s will is put before ours, he honors the desires of our hearts and our stepping out in faith (see Psalms 37:4, Hebrews 11).
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