I’m sorry to break it to you. There isn’t a golden path that God has preordained for you to follow which will lead you to success, riches, and a life of tremendous meaning and value. It doesn’t work that way. And I’m glad it doesn’t.
I grew up in the church. During my formative years, I believed that God had a specific plan for my life. It was the golden plan. He would bread-crumb me along the path and for as long as I listened to Him, obeyed Him, and properly discerned this perfect plan, I would experience all his blessings: a job in which I found great fulfilment using the talents he had given me, a wife that was created specifically for me, the right city or town in which my gifts could be perfectly used, and the proper amount of blessings to reveal that I’m in the center of God’s will. It wouldn’t be a perfect life. Suffering would come, in part, because I’m a sinner and in part, because we live in a fallen world. But it would be a good life.
Yet if I failed along the way…if I took the wrong turn, misunderstood his leading, or had a moment of rebellion, I ran the risk of missing God’s golden path. One wrong turn and it would all change. It wouldn’t be over. God is far more gracious than to allow one mistake to ruin our lives, but it would be different. The golden path would be lost and I would have to settle for something different, a second-rate life that still has good days and meaningful contributions, but a life that wasn’t everything it could have been. Maybe this could be called the silver path.
If things went horribly wrong and either I was totally clueless or made a truly bad decision, I would be stuck on the bronze path. It too would have some good moments, but I would be very aware that things weren’t as they could be. My career would suffer. My marriage would struggle. My parents would be disappointed with how things had turned out.
This is what I believed growing up and the message was regularly ingrained within me as pastors, Sunday School teachers, and friends regularly reminded me that “God has a plan for your life.” A plan. Specific. Strategic. Designed. A plan.
The intention behind this message was good and nearly theologically accurate. It’s true that God uses people for specific actions. It’s right to understand that nothing catches God off guard and every situation can be used by Him for our good and His glory. It’s accurate that God has pre-planned good things for us to accomplish.
The message was right, but my application of it was wrong. If God has “a” plan, but I make “a” mistake, then all is lost. One wrong turn would forever alter my future in a negative way and I would never be fully used by God in a way that I could have been. Yet that’s not the Biblical story.
A more accurate Biblical statement would likely be that God has plans for our lives. Not a plan, but many plans. There are many ways in which God wants to use us, communicate with us, and reveal to us and others that He is at work. Make a wrong turn and you might not accomplish one of the things you could have accomplished had you obeyed, but it doesn’t ruin your whole life. Instead, God is so great that he can actually use your mistakes and bring good from them. (See: Don’t Blame God When You Break-up with Your Boyfriend)
A divorce may not have been God’s design, but once experienced it can be used to show you God’s great love, to show others how to endure heartbreak, and to build relationships that you might not have ever had without the experience.
A prison sentence may not have been God’s design, but it can be adapted into God’s plan for your life in order to change you and others.
Who knows which college you are supposed to go to. If you go to your first choice your life will have many different experiences than if you go to your second choice. It will likely mean that you will marry a different person, live in a different city most of your life, and have different friends. But both options will have wonderful opportunities and both will have great drawbacks.
The point is believing in “a” plan can paralyze some, discourage others, and terrify us all. It’s neither Biblically accurate nor practically useful. Instead, we should believe that God has plans for our lives. There are many things He seeks to accomplish in and through us. One mistake doesn’t thwart every plan. One twist in the road doesn’t prevent you from ever being used. Instead, no matter where we are we might miss one opportunity, but still have many more before us.
If “a” plan means we have to get every decision right and one mistake can forever prevent us from living the life God desires, believing in many “plans” has a different impact.
- It frees us to act. On issues that aren’t morally black and white, we are liberated to make the best decision possible without fear that getting that one decision wrong will forever hinder our lives.
- It encourages us to repent. When we do choose poorly and violate God’s commands, knowing that God can still use us encourages us to quickly get right with God. Even if we have lost some opportunities (and sometimes we do) there are still many more things before us for which we want to be right with God.
- It calms us for the future. If there is only one right decision, we can be rightly paralyzed before making any choices. Yet if God has many plans for us, we can take hope in knowing that he will be with us along life’s journey. We should take decisions seriously, but not be concerned that one wrong move will forever kill our chances with God.
God doesn’t have a plan for your life and that is a good thing. He has plans for your life. Some you might see and others you may not, but never believe that you have missed your chance or that God is finished with you. As long as the sun comes up and you have breath in your lungs, there are still good things which God could use you to accomplish.
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