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. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
— Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NIV)
Did you know that God has plans for you? He does. You can’t always see them though and sometimes what you do see makes no sense. It’s normal, in these cases, to think that he doesn’t have a plan or that he is going about implementing it the wrong way. It’s easy to get discouraged and try to implement our own plans. We can’t do that. Let me tell you why.
Plans to prosper. Whether we realize it or not, God’s plans are to prosper us and not injure us. He wants us to have hope and a future. What we need to understand is that we have a part to play. We can’t sit around waiting. It’s like that old joke where the man drowns in a flood while waiting for the Lord to save him and when he gets to heaven God says, “I sent you a canoe, a boat and a helicopter…” We have to take an active part.
That, however, doesn’t mean we can just do our own thing without taking counsel from the Lord. They say if you want to make God laugh all you have to do is tell him your plans. Yes, I know it’s a cliche but that doesn’t make it untrue. So, how do we take an active part while staying out of the way of His plan?
Jeremiah tells us that when we call on Him and pray to Him he will listen to us. Do you get that? God will listen to us. Now, that doesn’t mean he will do what we tell him. That’s not what listen means. Jeremiah then goes on to say that we will find the Lord when we seek Him with all of our heart. When we fervently seek God we will find Him. If you truly want to follow God’s plan for your life you need to seek his counsel when making decisions. How do you do that? You fervently seek Him through prayer, and you will find Him. He will listen to you and then give you counsel, either through His word or through another person. You just need to listen, even when His counsel is not something you want to hear.
Painting a masterpiece requires dark colors. There’s a scene that was deleted from the film Bruce Almighty where God is telling Bruce that people don’t know what they want, and that in order to paint a masterpiece you sometimes need to use dark colors. I love this analogy, and I kind of wish it had stayed in the movie. We humans need to understand that the big picture is never what we can see in the moment. All we see is the dark colors and it frustrates and worries us. How can God have plans to prosper me by making me live through this darkness and pain? We don’t see it. We don’t want it.
What we need to do is accept it. I’m a writer so I’m going to overlay the painting analogy on story telling for a moment. If I write a story and there is no drama would you want to read it? Of course not, it’d be boring. The hero got everything handed to him, he didn’t have to overcome any obstacles and he therefore did not grow. You’d demand your money back. It’s the same in life. If there are no obstacles to overcome, how do you grow; And if you don’t grow, how can you prosper? You can’t! God plans to prosper you and to give you hope and a future. If nothing ever happens to you, all you have is more of the same and that’s not a future. It’s just an endless present. Equally, how will you know hope if you haven’t experienced fear, pain and despair? You need the drama. You need the dark colors.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.
— Proverbs 3:5-6
Perfect vision in hindsight. I know a who woman lost custody of her children through her ex’s machinations. She tried every legal avenue to get them back; she is still trying. Throughout most of it she couldn’t see how God’s plan could involve her kids being away from her. But during the course of events she went back to school for business management, which led to a new job. As a result she now has a nicer home in which to raise the children when she does get them back. She has also moved closer to the Lord and become more active in her church and community. Now she can see how it all fit together. She has 20/20 hindsight.
After we’ve come out the other side of something, it is easy to see the whole picture. While we are in the midst of it, not so much. In the midst of it we think that either God has no plan or that he is screwing things up. We tend to think that we can get ourselves out. We need to listen to Proverbs and not lean on our own understanding. We need to fully rely on God and trust in Him. We must acknowledge him and he will point us in the right direction.
In the film God’s Compass, we are told that God has a North for each of us and that His compass will lead us. We just need to be open to His direction as he prompts us toward our destination and the fulfillment of His plan. Then we can say, with God, “I love it when a plan comes together.” In the meantime, just remember that God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.