The Best Laid Plans

extra boots in snowOh man, do I LOVE to dream about the future! I drive my very-down-to-earth husband crazy, in fact, with all of the dreaming I do. Sometimes I sit and explore possibilities of what could be, just for the fun of it! Think of all the things we could do with our lives! We could move across the country! Build a tiny house! Start a hobby farm! Buy an RV! Start a business! Run a bed and breakfast! Complete a renovation! I am full of ideas, and I love to talk about them. I’m always mentally choosing paint colors and learning new skills and exploring the endless possible future within my head (or occasionally out loud). My husband has mostly learned to ignore my rambling when I start dreaming, because he knows that most of my dreams are just ideas, and not necessarily things I want or need to make happen in reality. Sometimes, though, I take my dreaming a step further and start to develop plans. Not only would it be fun and exciting to make something happen, I’m actually going to make it happen! Whether it’s getting out of debt, moving into a different home, choosing an educational curriculum for my children, changing my diet, or going on vacation, I lay my plans carefully and then work hard to make my dreams come true!

When all goes according to plan, I can’t help but enjoy the fruits of my labor! An endeavor that meets financial success, an effort that meets worldly acclaim, these things make me feel great! They are the reward for all of my hard work! Nothing better than creating a goal, working hard to complete it, and then reaping the rewards of the completed goal!

Except, after a few successes, it can be tempting to rely on them. Suddenly, success feels like a guarantee. If I just make careful plans and work hard to achieve them, I will achieve success, just like I did yesterday. And I will deserve that success because I will have worked hard to achieve it. Right?

Emboldened by my past success stories, I start to view my earthly future success as guaranteed and secure. But that’s not how the world works, is it? God says in James 4:13-14

“Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money. Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”

Oof. I’m a mist. Kind of puts me back in my place, doesn’t it? Good metaphor, God.

I can think of plenty of times in my life that God reminded me of my “mist” status. In 2009, we had moved from a small city back to a big one with big plans. My husband and I were both going to get GREAT jobs! We were going to work hard at those jobs and move up the ladder, get out of debt, put away a fair amount of money, and then think about having kids. Ha! Turns out God had other plans for us. Two days after moving into our new home, we found out we were pregnant with our first child. The night before we found out we were expecting, we had been sitting in a bar with a friend chatting about how we didn’t plan to have kids for a long while, and now here we were, pregnant. Our plans derailed, I started searching for more mom-friendly jobs than the ones I had been previously considering. My husband was able to land a job in his field but it didn’t pay much. We were struggling financially and living on ramen and falling deeper into debt. Nothing about our lives that year was written in our carefully laid plans. But God’s Love saw us through, and today we can’t imagine life without our firstborn daughter…or her three younger siblings.

Jeremiah 29:11 “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.”

Tonight we again found ourselves discussing plans as we went over our bank account and household budget. “I have this much coming in this week,” I said, “and you have this much. So I think we should pay off this and then buy that and then we can fix this and work toward that.” Greed and self satisfaction clouded our otherwise innocent enough conversation. It felt so good to have a little bit of extra money coming in this week, that we immediately began scheming, with no pause to thank God or ask Him to bless our endeavors. All we could see was dollar signs.

It’s not that God wants us to stop making plans and to quit budgeting our money. He just wants our hearts to be in the right place when we do so. James 4:15-16 goes on to say:

“Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.”

When we grow arrogant in the assurance of our own earthly success, we lose sight of the One who has blessed us with all of our past achievements. We don’t achieve any success because we deserve it. In fact, earthly success is not something God ever promised to us as Christians! In fact, He tells us that we will experience the consequences of sin on this earth. That is the only earthly guarantee God gives us:

"For the wages of sin is death…" (Romans 6:23a)

But he doesn’t just stop there.

"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:23)

God walks with us throughout our lives, through our wonderful successes and our horrible failures. Our entire lives, with the high points and the low frustrations, are a beautiful gift from God, because they all lead up to His Ultimate Gift: the gift of Eternal Life through Jesus! How shallow and petty of us to get excited over earthly money, to obsess over arrogant earthly plans which may or may not ever come to fruition, when we have a heavenly kingdom awaiting us that we did absolutely nothing to deserve!

Let’s go to God in prayer with all of our decisions, lay our plans at his feet, and ask him to bless us. Let us thank and praise him through the high points, and sing his praises still as we cling to Him through the low. Let us be brave enough to ask God to mold and refine us through our futures. May our end goal always be closer communion with Him, and not the meaningless short lived thrills that come through worldly success.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)