In my previous post, I wrote that while I don’t think God has “a plan”, I do think God has a goal and a purpose for creation. I think my main difficulty with the idea that “God has a plan” is that the phrase is often used to try and take the pain away from difficult situations. “God has a plan” offered as support can end up denying the person’s disappointment or their suffering.
You didn’t get the job? God has a plan–> so don’t feel badly. This wasn’t actually a disappointment.
Your heart is broken? God has a plan–> Don’t be sad.
Implicit in the statement is the idea, spoken or unspoken, that God has something better in store for you.
If we are not careful, “God has a plan” can turn into a mindset that doesn’t allow for us to experience our emotions of sadness or disappointment or heartbreak. It can also encourage a kind of fatalism. I’ll get the job if God wants me to have it and I don’t have too much input into it.
On the other hand, I don’t want to suggest that God is uninvolved in our lives. There is a middle ground between the micro-manager of the universe and the uninvolved, distant deity. Of course it is not possible to fully understand and explain how God is at work in the world. But (you knew a “but” was coming) that doesn’t mean we can’t try to understand a little bit.
It seems to me that God is as involved as we invite God to be. We can acknowledge God’s activity in the world in a general way and perhaps we won’t “bother” God with our small issues. We’ll deal with getting a good parking place, or good grades on our own. We’ll pray, maybe, for world peace or a sick friend. But some things really aren’t worth bothering God about. Others of us pray about everything. The weather, the game, our drive to work. We ask for God’s help for all of it. All of it matters to God and is controlled by God.
Both of those perspectives have their problems and their strengths. The Bible tells us God cares about small things, the lost coin, the lost pearl, the lost lamb, the sparrow. However, if God controls all those small things, do we have any choice in what happens to us? If God controls it all, there doesn’t seem to be much point to praying. Unless we can change God’s mind and then perhaps God isn’t in control as much as we thought. It gets confusing quickly.
The clearer way is to shift the focus off of us- my grades, my parking place, my lost coin- and to focus on God. Not God come fix my life, but rather, God help me live into your life. “Your will be done…” That seems to be the main thing the mystics are trying to tell us. Look for where God is. Look for where we can glimpse God at work, where we can sense God’s presence. Try to be aware and in step with God.
We all want the world to revolve around us. Let’s be honest, It really should be all about me! But its not. Its actually all about God. And God manages to not be self centered, pushy or grabby about it. God’s “all about me” is about God pouring God’s self out for us. This is confusing at first also. God’s all about me is for others. This goes along with those other odd statements of Jesus. If you save your life you lose it and if you lose your life you save it. Blessed are the poor. Love your enemies. Bless those who curse you.
That’s why we get lost and confused when we talk about God’s plan. God’s plan is so odd to us, so completely not human that we have trouble with it. I think we ought to be careful when we think we know God’s plan in any sort of detail. And I think we should be very careful telling others what we think God’s plan is for them.
I’d like to know, what do you think?