We often need to throw out our plans and trust in God’s design for the future.
It’s been almost a year since I retired from full-time ministry in the deep snow country of Houghton, Mich., and transitioned into part-time ministry in the not-nearly-as-deep snow country of Minocqua, Wis. Looking back, I can say with confidence, “Everything has gone exactly according to plan!”
We can’t plan the future
You may reply, “Are you kidding? What about spiking inflation? Eggs at $5 a dozen? Butter at just under $5 per pound? Eight-foot two-by-fours for your retirement home at almost $10 apiece? Home heating costs up 35 percent? Contractors so busy they are scheduling projects more than a year out? Are you trying to tell me you saw all that coming and planned for it?”
Nope. Nor did I have a crystal ball that told me that some of my neighbors, friends, and fellow church members would still be getting COVID. Nor would I have guessed that the political divide in our country would deepen into a gaping chasm marked by poisonous, hate-filled invective on each side. Nor did I foresee how social media would be weaponized to promote lifestyles based on a worldview that denies absolute truth and despises Christianity.
Just about a year into retirement, many of my plans have been thrown out the window. But that does not mean my life—or yours—hasn’t gone according to plan. For everything that happened this past year went exactly according to my Father’s plan.
God sets the plan
What? The Lord foresaw the widening wake of death caused by a worldwide pandemic? Spiking inflation? Violence in our streets? Our political and societal meltdown? Yes! The psalmist assures us, “Great is our Lord and mighty in power. To his understanding there is no limit” (Psalm 147:5; see also Isaiah 40:28).
Why did the Lord permit such chaos? We cannot know for sure. Our Lord reminds us, “Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my plans are higher than your plans” (Isaiah 55:9). Only the Lord sees all of history as if it were a divine tapestry that he weaves—thread by thread, day by day, event by event, person by person.
But we do know this: Our Lord uses pandemics, wars, violence in the streets, raging inflation, supply-chain crises, and even tsunami-strength godlessness as wake-up calls to teach all of us that this world, this life, is broken. We need something more (see Matthew 24:4-14).
And our Father uses our greatest struggles to move us to confess with Paul, “Therefore we are not discouraged. But even if our outer self is wasting away, yet our inner self is being renewed day by day. Yes, our momentary, light trouble produces for us an eternal weight of glory that is far beyond any comparison. We are not focusing on what is seen, but on what is not seen. For the things that are seen are temporary, but the things that are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
This past year may not have gone the way I planned it, but it went precisely the way my heavenly Father planned it.
And as for the year ahead? I have no doubt everything will go according to plan—my Father’s plan! That gives me the confidence to step forward in faith with the certainty of Solomon’s proverb echoing in my heart and mind: “A person’s heart plans his way, but the LORD makes his steps secure” (Proverbs 16:9).
Author: Glenn Schwanke
Volume 110, Number 06
Issue: June 2023