“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. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." James 4:13-15
It seems like every January there is an unwritten tradition – to make plans. Sometimes they are big plans spanning the entire upcoming year, and at other times they are plans to get us through the first couple weeks of the year. Some of these plans are “New Year Resolutions.” These are generally plans that are maybe out of the ordinary that someone might want to change about their circumstances or lifestyle. While other plans are simply things we may need to get done.
Yet, we know that not every plan we make will come to completion. The reality is, by the time you read this, some of those plans have already changed. In many ways, this reflects the reality of our planning as imperfect people in an imperfect world. While we often plan with the best of intentions, at times, our plans simply don’t come about the way we thought. Sometimes our plans don’t happen and sometimes they change. It is not uncommon to wind up somewhere we had never intended to go – whether that is for the better or for the worse.
In James 4 we are reminded that as we make plans it is important to remember to ground those plans in the Lord and His will and if we do so, we are wise. While it is good to have dreams and aspirations, real fruit comes when we align our lives and our plans with the Lord’s will.
But even with this understanding, changes in plans can have a real effect on us. I believe that how firmly we hold our plans can often have a very direct impact on how we feel about life in general. When we hold our plans too firmly (meaning we are inflexible), changes or cancelled plans can often lead to frustrations or even fears. Frustrations with lost opportunities or with things that do not live up to expectations can lead to negative feelings and interactions with those around us.
That said, I would suggest the opposite is also often true. By holding a little more loosely to our expectations of planned events and hoped for accomplishments we are less likely to respond negatively when things change. There may still be some element of disappointment and frustration or even pain that goes with a loss, but our interactions with those around us are less likely to become negative.
Now, James does not tell us to make no plans – planning is important and a responsible use of our time and gifts. However, many make plans thinking that nothing can or should disrupt them. And often people make plans that align more with their will than with God’s will and where He would like them to be. We are wise to hold a bit looser to most of our plans because we just can’t know for certain what will come, and loosely held plans allow us to respond to God’s call.
This year as the EMMC, we have set some plans in motion and are still making other plans. Yet, we hold them loosely, recognizing that we want to be aligned with God’s will in everything and that He may take us places we never expected.
As you make your plans for this year, I encourage you to make your plans and follow through on the good ones, but hold them loosely. I hope that many of your plans will come to fruition (if they are wise and godly) but if some do not – or even if many do not – take heart knowing that God will still faithfully lead and guide you in the coming year.