Quit Looking For God’s Plan

April 21, 2010

Do you have a plan for your life yet?

People love plans.  When I was in eighth grade, the high school counselors came and had us pick all our high school classes, along with a college major, 401K retirement plan, and marital partner.

Not really, but seriously, it was a five year plan for fourteen-year-olds…the age when kids have an attention span of five minutes.  I think some people changed their sexual identities more easily (and frequently) than their college majors.

It’s no wonder we think God is a fan of the plan.  How many times this week have you tried to find “God’s plan for your life?”  If you by chance haven’t been looking for it, I guarantee someone has been praying that you’d find it, or telling you to look for it. 

This is like the other side of what I talked about on Monday.  There’s those “Spirit led” churches that may not know what it means to be Spirit led Monday through Saturday.  Then there’s those Spirit led Christians who are always looking for God’s plan for their lives.

But I’ve got to say this: I don’t think God’s as big a fan of planning as we are. 

Three Reasons to Stop Looking for God’s Plan for Your Life

The Dude Who Demands Jesus Show Up in Person

We’ve all got that guy we know.  His life is kind of a wreck.  He probably likes the idea of Jesus being a hippie and would probably like to have a few beers with Jesus, but he’s not going to pay attention to him as God.  He’s actually really got his doubts about God.  I picture him as “The Dude” Lebowski.  So one day, you ask him what it would take for him to pay attention to God. 

He says, “If Jesus showed up in person, and gave me a high five right now while I’m drinking this Miller Lite, I’d become a Christian.”

Of course, that’s a big “if.”

The guy who demands Jesus shows up is really annoying to the Christian, because of course, you can’t raise the bar quite that high.  Forget it, you’re out of your element.  You can’t deliver Jesus in the flesh, whose soothing voice will straighten this guy out. 

No, instead we promise that if the guy becomes a Christian, then God will speak in an inaudible, intangible, but definately real way to reveal His clear and absolute plan for his life…which if I were The Dude, would sound nuts. 

Why do I bring up The Dude who wants Jesus in person before he’ll believe?  

Because most of us are secretly in The Dude mode, we just don’t want to admit it.  We’re waiting for God to show up and give us a plan, and then we’ll know what to do!  “Tell you what, if the Holy Spirit comes to me while I’m drinking this beer, and tells me his plan for the next five years of my life, then I’ll go along with it.  Until then…”

Looking for God’s plan just becomes a holding pattern.

How many people have actually recieved a plan from God?

A quick scan of my Bible shows not many people actually got a plan from God.  Abraham was told to leave home.  That’s it.  Not much in the way of itinerary. 

Even the holiest guys got kind of an outline at the mostOnce in a while, they’d get a specific direction.  But what was a year or five years down the road?  Nothing on the calendar.

Next time a preacher is telling you all about God’s plan for your life, ask him how far out does God’s plan go.  Better yet, ask the pastor how far out God’s plan for his life goes. 

I especially love it when God’s plans that pastors talk about are really vague words like “success.”  Gee, it sounds like God read my horoscope before He gave me my life plan.

Plans get broken.

That’s a fact.  Plans change.  They get broken.  They’re inflexible.  As soon as a plan changes, it’s not a plan anymore.  It’s improvisation.  And that sounds a lot more like real life to me.

I could be wrong, but looking for a “plan” from God feels a lot like a security blanket from me.  And when we don’t find it, I think a lot of people are left with a lot of anxiety, if only because we think God is handing out plans to every Tom, Dick, and Harry like they were candy.  We think there’s a bunch of people out there who know exactly what God wants them to be doing, and I get the feeling that’s just not true.  At best, people know what God wants out of them for the next ten minutes.  Anything beyond that is likely our plans, which we refer to as “God’s plan,” and just hope it pans out.  Because nothing makes God look worse than when He has to change his plan for your life.

Here’s an idea.  Quit looking for God’s plan for your life.  Start looking for his purpose for your life.  That seems like more of God’s game.  Purposes aren’t rigid and breakable like plans are either.  Purposes can take on lots of different plans.  And finding a purpose is probably a lot simpler, and less stressful than trying to find a plan that God isn’t telling you, while at the same time requiring more faith because we don’t know the plan that goes with the purpose.

How do you see it?  Does God dole out plans, or purposes?  What’s God’s purpose for your life?

39 responses to Quit Looking For God’s Plan

  1. Proverbs 16:9 A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps

    I know that as soon as I start to plan, I may outline where I think we are going, but then… I even have trouble planning my day, but an perfectly happy for God to direct it!

  2. I especially get frustrated with talk of God’s plan when it is put in terms of “God’s WONDERFUL plan for your life” (or some variation of the same sentiments) I have 2 main reasons for that.

    1. It usually involves some serious misuse of Jerimiah 29:11. It wasn’t written as a general promise to every believer that ever lived. It is part of a promise to a specific group of people in regards to a specific situation they were facing. We are not that group of people so we can’t really claim that particular verse.

    2. It is very deceptive. What most people are going to think of when you say God has a wonderful plan for their lives is not going to reflect reality. Even a relatively comfortable Christian life has its hard stuff. Some Christians face sickness, hunger, persecution or even martyrdom. Not exactly their best life now. By falsely emphasizing God’s alleged wonderful plan we risk ending up with a lot of false converts and disappointed believers.

  3. Interesting thoughts. So, is this the same thing as trying to discern God’s will on something?

    • I wouldn’t say it’s the same thing. Discerning God’s will in a specific thing usually is much smaller than trying to figure out a whole plan for your life. My thought is to figure out God’s purpose for your life, and then judge your decisions by whether they fit into that purpose.

  4. I was showing my students my ten- and five-year plans from when I graduated high school. They all laughed when we counted the things I had actually gotten on the ten-year plan were getting a college degree and starting a career. My five year plan? Well, at least I am teaching, though not as a Ph.D. candidate like I was aiming for. Simply put, if I were to talk to the me of ten years ago and tell him that a decade on he would be a school teacher still living in south Louisiana, much less unmarried and only having a college degree in history, he would have laughed me away for being off my rocker. Heck, I still think I’m off my rocker at times!

    Like you said, looking for God’s “Plan” is really an exercise in futility, because God never gives you anything beyond your next step. For someone like me who likes the security of long-range planning, this drives me nuts. However, I really can’t do anything but follow His leading, as I sure don’t have a clue how to run my life.

  5. Thanks for the thought provoke. I totally see what you mean. God is not so much interested in our having a plan as He is with our obedience.

  6. I see the Christian life simply as a series of small acts of obedience. Oh, occasionally there’s the “sell your house, quit your job, and move to Iraq” thing, but even that is done in small steps as evidenced here:
    1) I’m not happy doing what I’m doing…why don’t I look for a new job?
    2) I’m happiest when I’m ministering, so why not look for a full-time ministry job?
    3) No ministry jobs for aerospace engineers, so why not be a missionary (_they’ll_ take anybody!)? Can’t hurt to at least submit an application!
    4) Oh look! I’ve made the first cut! It’ll be neat to see what kinds of jobs they have available for rocket scientists!
    5) Well…nothing really for rocket scientists, but there’s this cool “do archaeology in the middle east” thing. Maybe I’ll get that!
    6) Yay! They picked me! Now to sell the house and quit the job!
    7) What? They don’t feel comfortable sending a single girl traveling about the middle east right now? Ok well I’ll come to orientation and we’ll figure something out!
    8) Engineering background? Want to help rebuild stuff? Why not go to Iraq! They’re in the middle of a war there, but it’ll be cool!

    “God’s will” for your life is simply the last thing He told you to do. Act in obedience and you’ll be surprised at how far away you end up from where you started. Sometimes that’s even true physically.

    • I like it – I’m a software/prophet in Boston now.

    • “’God’s will’ for your life is simply the last thing He told you to do.” Wow. Wowee. So simple but you nailed it.

      I have trouble deciphering what is God’s will and what is my will but I’ve narrowed it down to this: if I make a decision, and begin to act according to that decision, and I am completely comfortable with it, that decision is at least moving in the same general direction as God’s plan. If that decision makes me nervous or anxious or “itchy”, then it’s a move in the wrong direction.

      As for my purpose? All I’ve figured out so far is that God wants me to love people. Everyone. Show them compassion and attention and reflect His love to them. I fail a lot but every day I try…and it’s getting easier. The awesome part is that in attempting to reflect God’s love, my own life gets sweeter.

  7. Thanks for this post. I’ve been a lurking reader for a few months now, but this really resonated with me. We often get so caught up in looking for God’s plan that we forget to do the things He specifically tells us to do in His word. I went through a lot of anxiety and doubt in college because I was looking for a plan that never materialized.

  8. Good post, Matt. As I look back over my 30+ years as a Christian, here is what I can take away from it.

    – The plan of Salvation is a great plan to be worked out with fear and trembling, mistakes and the like. Still the best plan.

    – Asking God to bless my plans didn’t always work.

    – Learning to hear God’s voice for myself in all the ways He communicates took some real doing. The mix of illuminated Bible passages, prophetic words, interpreted dreams, sermons “written for me,” His voice in my prayer time, trials, desert times and the wisdom of Christian friends has reveled a path through life much more than a plan.

    – My God “plans” have always come in the form of prophetic words. The working out of those plans (calling) has been a walk of faith; paths to goals that I could never have seen without the Holy Spirit as a guide.

    – It’s very easy to miss it by intellectualizing our faith.

  9. I liked this alot. Since I’m starting college in the fall, it’s been interesting to think about this. Kind of scary too.
    -The OC Josh

  10. I think we need to KEEP looking for God’s plan – for all creation. The problem is when we add the “for my life” part to it. We are so selfish in how we view God. He definitely has a plan – but while I have a role (or many roles) to play in His plan, it’s not about my life – but about His holy purpose – to rescue creation.

  11. good point… I have a friend who used to say that she wished God would drop index cards at us – index cards that would tell us what the next step of the plan was… I guess that’s better than wanting the entire plan, but still – the fact is God doesn’t drop index cards…

    But purpose… yeah… purpose we can find – though it may not be easy… I hadn’t really thought about purpose vs plans before… much to consider…

  12. Very interesting and thought provoking….

  13. I’ve come to believe that this is just another excuse. “I’m waiting on God’s plan for my life before I make a move.” There is more than enough direction in Scripture to keep you going until the day you die (living out love, kindness, sharing what God has done, caring for your family, etc.). What do you need with a plan for 40 years from now? It’s just another excuse for apathy… Geez, you got me a little stirred up, Matt. Thanks, I think. :)

  14. How do you differentiate between God’s plan and God’s purpose for our lives?

    The impression I got was that, by plan, you meant something along the lines of “Go to X Street and wait Y minutes for Z man to come and give you a scroll with the blueprints,” while a purpose is more general, like, “Reach out to broken-hearted young women.”

    Feel free to correct me on this.

    In this instance, I feel like I personally have received a bit of both a plan and a purpose from God. I know that God wants me to go into long-term missions in Southeast Asia, and the more I’m listening, the more I’m receiving.

    While I don’t know all the steps in between me and Cambodia, I definitely agree with Jon Acuff when he said that if I did have a big list of “when and where and how long” from God, eventually that list would become my god, and I would be putting my faith in that list instead of my Creator.

    God’s pretty smart – smarter than me, at least. It would be awesome to know what the specific steps are in His plan for me, but I trust that God’s going to reveal those to me just as I need them.

  15. Yeah, the horoscope-esque “words from God” really bug me.

    And, yes: God seems to like to take people on journeys. I hate journeys. I just want to be there already. [sigh] Oh well.

    The trouble with “purpose” (especially in a “Purpose Driven Life” kind of context) is that it too becomes horribly vague. I had to put down Warren’s book after a few pages because it was getting way too annoying. “Purpose” is too close to the horoscope issue too.

    We all want direction. God, for whatever reason, often does stuff in the background and we end up where He wants us. I don’t know how, and it sure is frustrating, but God does have a plan for us… but all too often He doesn’t share it with us beforehand.


    • I am reminded of the roller coaster scene at the end of Parenthood (the movie). Steve Martin is terrified of roller coasters but his grandmother waxes poetic about the thrill, the experience, the joy in the anxiety of it. Isn’t that what it’s all about? The journey itself?

  16. Here’s an idea. Quit looking for God’s plan for your life. Start looking for his purpose for your life. That seems like more of God’s game.



  17. Perhaps the reason God doesn’t give us a road map for the next however many years is because He doesn’t want us running off without Him. If we know The Plan, why do we need God? By just giving us direction for the moment, He forces us to keep coming back to Him to learn the next step–and that’s the whole point. As Luke points out, God takes us on journeys. I think the entire trip is just God’s excuse to hang out with us!

  18. “What’s God’s purpose for your life?”…

    To know Him and make Him known.

  19. Right on the money! When we hear “God’s plan” we think God has a minute-by-minute flow chart of what direction our life will go. And until we find that “plan” we live without direction. I think God’s only plan is for us to have happy, fulfilling lives! When we acknowledge this and God’s desire to be a part of making that plan come true, we can really begin to identify God’s purpose for our lives.

  20. Great post, man. It really is all about finding what your purpose is because then any plan is possible. Now, I just have to figure out my purpose. 😉

  21. Wow! Holy Spirit thing. I wrote a blog on Proverbs 16:1, 3 & 9 about 2-3 hours ago. I just clicked over here from Twitter and it’s the same subject matter! Sweeeeeeeet!

  22. Abraham was given a vision (purpose) with a promise of what God wanted to do in his life. His job was to trust and obey God each step of the way. Abraham and Sarah messed up (like many of us) when they got impatient and tried to help God out. Even though they messed up, Abraham still fulfilled the purpose of God. This gives me hope that I will fulfill my purpose. This is all because of the grace and goodness of God.
    Also did someone who called themself a “spirit led ” Christian offend you? I was just wondering. It looks like they have.

  23. The thing I always tend to hear is to ask God to “reveal” His plan to us; like there is already something going on and that knowing it somehow helps us out. That’s what makes it so disappointing when nothing seems to work out and you haven’t “heard” anything regarding why.

    But if something is already under way, knowing what it is isn’t really going to be of much use, is it? That’s my take, at least.

  24. I like the idea that you look for what God is doing and join in it… I think that’s from Blackby but don’t remember for sure. If you find a need fill it the best you can – that’s the plan.

  25. When I was young I had my life planned out. As a fluke I took a photo class in high school because I thought photography might come in handy sometimes if I was doing field work. In college though, some band saw the pictures I shot for a concert promo flyer we did to advertise their playing on the campus. The next thing I knew I was getting a phone call from them to shoot their album cover. Pretty soon I was shooting tons of the early christian rock album covers and doing big multi media projects. I had planned for A or B and it turned out to be X … none of the above.

    These days I believe the best way for me to be in the right place at the right time is to get up, offer my day up to God and put one foot in front of the other. A lot of my friends have spent most of their adult lives waiting for God to show them His will. Simple is much better.

  26. After having walked with the Lord for 35 years I’ve learned that I cannot handle the revelation of the full plan of God for my life. I would get off track, balk, get caught up in life’s circumstances, etc. The Bible says, “The steps of a man are established by the Lord,….” (Psalm 37:23) ESV

    I’ve learned to follow Him a step at a time. Baby steps. Yes, I walk in the light He gives me. If we are faithful in the little things (baby steps) He will trust us with the larger things (the attaining of the whole plan).

    Thanks for putting into words what the Spirit has already revealed to us. That’s the sign of a good teacher and writer. God bless.

  27. That was fantastic, Matt. Seriously good.

  28. I love a plan — I’m Triple Type A…it’s ingrained in my genes. This inclination makes me yearn to uncover God’s plan for me — I would really love a scroll to drop down from Heaven. Purpose seems a little more vague to me — I mean, couldn’t pretty much anything fit into purpose? Be more patient with my kids? Reach out to the poor? Pray more? Purpose seems to cover everything…which I guess why I yearn for a plan. A plan would be a bit more concise. I’m all about consise. I know, I know…I’m working on it!

    P.S. I like your new look here.

  29. Theodore A Jones June 12, 2012 at 6:37 am

    God by Jesus’ crucifixion has only perfected the Way you might have life predicated upon your faith, absolute conviction, to USE it.

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