God Doesn't Have a Plan for Your Life

(and this is good news)

God loves you, and has a wonderful plan for your life. Have you ever heard that one before? It’s often tied to a cherry-picked out of context reading of Jeremiah 29:11:

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.

Here’s the thing: This verse isn’t about me or you. It’s about Judah in exile, wondering if they would ever leave Babylon to return home to rebuild after the catastrophic events of 587 BCE. But, we can do all things through a verse taken out of context.

Snark aside, I don’t think God actually has an individualized plan for our lives, and this is really good news. Think about it for a minute. If God has a plan for your life, a specific plan, for if you’ll get married or who you’ll marry or where you’ll work or what you’ll have for lunch next Tuesday, or for anything really, then life becomes nothing but pressure and anxiety. What if we miss that plan? How do I find out what the plan is? Prayer? Reading the Bible? Asking someone? All of that is subjectivity, and when you’re seeking an objective plan that has your name on it, that’s maddening.

This idea of a predetermined plan that we are just trying to discover and live out removes all the creativity, passion, and joy from the process of being human. It’s also just impossible, right? How do you know that you found the right person/career/whatever for which you’re looking? It’s an endless cycle or worry, fear, and what if-ism. What if out of the seven billion people on this planet, I don’t find “the one” that God picked out for me? What if I discover the career path “God wills” for me, but I absolutely hate it? What if I don’t get it all right and aligned? What if I miss some sign or some opportunity that was all part of God’s plan for me? Part of this thinking, with which so many of us were indoctrinated, is the idea that joy is the enemy. If I like it, if it is fun or exciting, if I want it, then it’s probably wrong and off limits. It’s almost as if God’s will, in this previous understanding, is the path of anti-joy, right? We just gotta be obedient and miserable, because that proves our faithfulness to God.

Is there an alternative to this perspective? If the whole “God has a plan for your life” isn’t how it works, then how might it work? I do think that the Reality and Mystery the word God points us toward (but can’t define or contain) does have a hope or even a “will” for us. However, this will is collective, not individualized. It has less to do with what we do for a job, where we eat lunch, or who we marry as individuals, and more to do with the kinds of communities and societies we create. Let’s put it this way: God’s plan means that we are invited, even pulled, toward a certain way of being and a certain way of living with one another.

God’s plan, in which we are invited to participate, is for human flourishing. It’s about humans creating sustainable, equitable, just, and generous communities where everyone has enough and their belovedness is affirmed and celebrated.

Here’s the good news part: There are lots of ways to do that. There isn’t a planned out, predetermined recipe. We get to be creative and innovative. We get to pursue what we love, that which inspires us and brings us joy. You aren’t being forced into a cookie cutter mold of who you “should” be or what you “should” want. Actually, maybe there are no shoulds. We are being invited to join the Divine in the process of pursuing justice and goodness, and we’re free to do that in the ways that make us most fully and wonderfully alive. Is it possible that this is the point? That the more fully alive we become, the more engaged in this work of creating a planet on which all humans can flourish we become? I think so.

So, my friends, innovate. Be creative. Pursue that which brings you joy and fills you with life. The only limits are those of your own imagination. Then take all of that goodness, and find ways to join in the journey of creating a world where all human beings can do the same. Knowing our deep belonging and belovedness, and making sure others do, too, is the work of being human. After all, human flourishing is God’s great longing for each one of us.

Quote of the week:

Frederick Buechner:
“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

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