I’ve sat in front of this blank screen for quite a while trying to answer the question, “Do you believe God has a plan for your life?”
The knee-jerk response is, “Yes” followed by bible passages like Jeremiah 29:11 that states: I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope.
If I could leave it at that, this would be the shortest article I’ve ever written. But something keeps eating at me that I can’t just leave it as a “yes.”
Resisting "God's Plan"
Maybe part of it is because how manipulative “God’s plan” can become. You know, when someone tries to get you to do something (or stop something) because they keep insisting it’s God’s plan for your life — even though you’re not sure. Examples include something as small as my Sunday school teacher telling me I shouldn’t be reading Harry Potter books because it’s going to be detrimental to God’s plan for my life. Or as major as a girl I knew who approached a boy to tell him that it was God’s plan for them to marry because he fit all the descriptions of the husband she was expecting.
Maybe part of my resistance is due to how detrimental our use of “God’s plan” can be. It’s one thing to say, “it’s all part of God’s plan” when you don’t get the job you wanted or didn’t get in to the school of your dreams. But it’s a whole another level to say, “it’s all part of God’s plan” to someone who lost a loved one in a tragedy.
Maybe I’m just hung up on the semantics of it all--specifically the word “plan.” For me, I can’t help but drift to something specific when someone talks about God’s plan for them. My mind automatically goes to that girl I knew who believed that it was God’s plan to marry a man who was a specific height, had specific traits, and a specific job. Or that pastor I know who was convinced he would be a pastor from like Day 1 because God told him so.
Thinking along those lines, it’s easy for one to get discouraged and think that there might not be a plan for them if they’ve been living like wanderers, nomads and explorers.
There are some people who have a straight line from point A to point B. But most of us end up taking detours here and there to get to point B, if we ever get there. And that’s okay. We should normalize that wandering is okay; not knowing exactly what’s next is okay; accidentally stumbling into our purpose is okay.
Purpose is the word that resonates with me. Because I believe with all that I am that each and every single one of us has a purpose. Perhaps I’m being too picky with semantics. Some would argue that God having a plan for you and God having a purpose for you are synonymous. But they resonate different for me.
My friend is an example of this.
He knows that his purpose is to serve others. He originally thought that meant he was to work in parish ministry; that was God’s plan for him. So he pursued ordination. Yet, parish ministry never fully resonated with him. He loved the people he worked with and served, but he felt restless. Then he discovered chaplaincy and working at a hospital. That’s where he feels the most alive. He feels like he is where he is supposed to be in this season of his life. I wouldn’t be surprised if, in a few years, he’s serving God and God’s people in another setting. He’s a spiritual nomad in that sense.
The plans that I thought I had for me and that I thought God had for me always shift. But yet, I cannot deny that my purpose is to serve God and God’s people in a ministerial setting because that’s what makes me feel like a true human being; it’s what gives me life.
And instead of focusing on and discerning what God’s plan for my life may be, my prayer has been that wherever I am, I will live out my purpose of loving God and loving God’s people to the fullest and best of my abilities.
What I want to say to you is that your life has a purpose.
Are you lost without a plan?
Maybe you’re a spiritual nomad wandering from here to there. Maybe you’ve been told you’re lost because you don’t have a plan. Maybe you’ve been wondering if God even has a plan for you because you keep pursuing different passions. But as J.R.R. Tolkien wrote, “Not all who wander are lost.” Just because you’re exploring, discerning, wandering doesn’t mean you’re without purpose. It doesn’t mean you don’t and can’t have an impact in the lives you come across.
As a pastor, I’m inclined to say that our purpose as human beings on this earth can be summed up by Micah: to do justice, to embrace faithful love, and to walk humbly with God.
So wherever you are in life; whatever you may be doing — if you’re working for justice, embracing faithful love, walking humbly with God, then I’d say that you’re living a purpose-driven life and that the kingdom of God is not too far from you.
Joseph Yoo is a West Coaster at heart contently living in Houston, Texas with his wife and son. He serves at Mosaic Church in Houston. Find more of his writing at josephyoo.com.