The Reason You Haven’t Figured Out God’s Plan for Your Life

March 18, 2013

Recently, I turned thirty.  Big number.Gods-Plan-for-you

Today, my wife and I have been married for seven years.  Hard to believe.

I’ve completed a bachelor’s and a Master’s degree.  I’ve got a house and a job.  Not too bad.

But the one thing I don’t have?

A master plan.

How many people went to church this weekend and heard something about finding God’s “plan” for your life?  I am certain that there were many, many sermons preached about finding the grand and glorious plan that God has already mapped out for you.  If only we can figure out God’s plan, then we’ll be set.  Google “God’s plan” and thousands of results will come up, all about focusing, finding, and following God’s plan for you.

You know, I’m still younger than a lot of you in blog-land.  I haven’t been married as long or worked as long.  But I have figured something out at this point in my life…

…God isn’t going to tell us the plan.  God’s plan is on a need-to-know basis, and apparently, He thinks we don’t need to know.

Get In the Car

Recently, I gave a hypothetical scenario to a group of kids.  Imagine your parents pick you up after school and say, “Get in the car, we are going on a trip.”  “Where are we going?” you ask.  “It’s a secret, just get in the car!”

Mom and Dad have packed all your stuff for you.  They have snacks.  But you don’t know where you’re going or how long it’s going to take.

Most kids would still get in the car.  Because they know their parents.  They know they can trust them enough to get in the car even if they don’t know where they are going.

Twenty Questions

The problem is, most of us adults don’t have that kind of trust with God.  If Jesus himself drove up to our house and said, “Get in,” we’d have some questions we’d want answered.

“Where are we going?”

“How long is this going to take?”

“What do I need?”

We would waste a bunch of time trying to figure out what Jesus had planned before we agreed to go along.  And that is how most of us live our lives.  We are obsessed with finding things out, especially as they relate to us and our lives.  We want to know where we are headed, how we are getting there, how long it will take, and what will we need.

And we won’t budge until we have all those questions answered.

Rear-View Mirrors

At the age of thirty, I have concluded that we are praying a bunch of prayers and listening to a bunch of sermons that God is just not going to answer.

God does not tell us the future.  He’s not a fortune teller.  We’re lucky if we get little glimpses every once in a while of where we are going.

At my age, I’m finally old enough to be able to look backward and see God’s plan being worked out, like looking in the rear-view mirror.  And to be honest, it turned out very differently (but often much better, or at least more interesting than I could’ve planned.)  But it takes a lot of time and perspective to be able to see God’s providence at work.  I couldn’t see God in the moment.  I was sitting in the backseat of the car, while Jesus had the map.

Know God, Not the Plan

The secret to finding out God’s plan for you life isn’t to keep asking God to tell you the plan.

It’s to get in the freaking car and go.  It doesn’t matter where God is taking you.  Just go.

The reality is none of us know where God is taking us.  The people who say they know are lying.  And our obsession with knowing the plan is just our obsession with control.  We want to know so we can feel more in control of our destinies.

God has never promised to tell us the plan for our lives.  He has only promised that if we want to, we can know Him.

We can know Him.

The reason kids could get in the car with their parents without knowing where they are going is because they know their parents.  And the reason most of us are obsessed with knowing God’s plan is because we don’t really know Him.  Faith is not knowing the plan.  It’s going even if you don’t know the plan.  And faith comes from knowing God.  

God hasn’t promised a plan.  He’s promised Himself.

What do you think?  Have we been tricked into worshipping our own desire for control?

34 responses to The Reason You Haven’t Figured Out God’s Plan for Your Life

  1. Anyone who reads any of the stupid comments I’ve written on this site knows that I have a great deal of uncertainty about this whole “God’s plan for your life” business–I always had plenty of anxiety as kid about “trying to figure out His plan”; now that I’m older I worry less about that but still couldn’t really tell anyone that I’m certain that He has a plan at all, or what “God having a plan” even means.

    The thing that gets me about your analogy, Matt, is this: we’re already all going somewhere, whether we like it or not. I don’t see how one can really decide to “stay out of the car” unless one does absolutely nothing and just stays by the roadside and never changes (and how would you even do that? Unless you’re in some kind of permanent vegetative state that seems pretty much impossible.) Stuff is going to happen, whether your “car” has the right “driver” or not.

    And when you look backward over your life and see how things went better than expected–how do you know that’s God’s providence? How do you know it’s not just dumb luck? If things look **worse** than expected, do you figure that was God’s doing as well or do you chalk it up to times when you were “driving” and He wasn’t?

      • Um, okay. Care to elaborate?

        • I don’t think we can know anything until we meet him face to face in heaven. What looks awful now, what looks wonderful–it’s all from our limited perspective as mortal finite beings here in earth.

          I have a bit more perspective now that I’m 58, and I see God taking garbage and the things I complained about the most at the time they were happening, and turning them into treasures (hence my blog name, “Compost”). Likewise, my triumphs will probably turn to dust from the perspective I’ll have 500 years from now.

  2. Another good one, Matt!

    I believe that God has revealed His big plan to folks in the past, but now we are just waiting for the end of Revelation to happen. And I believe that God doesn’t reveal His individual plan for us because we can’t handle His plan–or at least we wouldn’t want to follow His plan because it would involve pain and suffering in some degree and we might get too focused on that and not on the joys that would come out of the pain and the ultimate good that comes out of the experience. We would ask even MORE questions before getting in the car and we would go through it with fear and trepidation rather than (relatively) blissful ignorance.

  3. I woke up late this morning, and this was the first thing I sat down and read. As always, you provide a very interesting perspective on things. This article made me sit down and think for a moment. There are a few things I’d like to throw out there. Pardon me if my paragraphs are weirdly formatted, the blog software doesn’t seem to play nice with hitting Enter twice.

    First, I do believe God has a plan for everyone’s life. Maybe it’s been used out of context, but Jeremiah 29:11 is generally used as the cornerstone for this belief: ‘For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ It’s hard for me to believe that God would make someone without a purpose. At least, I sure hope I’m not purposeless!

    Second, I think I have spent more time than I care to admit trying to figure out God’s plan for me. And yeah, perhaps it is a futile endeavor. Isaiah 55:8 says, ‘”For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.’ Or when God spoke through the prophets and apostles, he never did seem to lay out the specifics of something. Often he said ‘X event will happen’ or ‘Go do this.’ Of course, we’re not the prophets or the apostles, so we may not be privy to that much knowledge. Perhaps we just need to trust God and continue with our lives, serving him as best as we can. That notion reverberates with me.

    Third, even though God may not always specifically reveal what he wants us to do, I think the Bible actually does say a couple things about what God’s plan for each person’s life is. Consider the Great Commission – God wants us to spread the Gospel. We can also know that he wants us to be plugged into the community that is the church, and that he wants us to live repentant, holy lives. We don’t know the exacts all at once, but we do know a few general things. The details of those, of course, are figured out as God works in us.

    Fourth, I believe God will sometimes give us a more specific hint for what he wants to do with us – but even then it may not be terribly specific. We seem to agree in this regard. I became a Christian when I was 16, by 17-18 I felt I had a calling to ministry. Originally I thought it was for youth ministry. I believe God confirmed the idea I was called to ministry when I was 19, and since then it’s shifted toward evangelism/apologetics. I don’t know how it’s going to work out, I just know a little bit about what’s in store.

    I think we can know a little about God’s plan for us, from the Bible and sometimes through special events, but not to the extent we can know everything. I’m reminded of James 4:15, ‘Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”‘ In my mind, I often think about future plans and what “God is going to have me do.” Um, how exactly how do I know that? Yeah there are the general things, but I might still be looking toward the wrong thing. Maybe I should be thinking, “What God is having me do right now”?

  4. “Have we been tricked into worshipping our own desire for control?” Hell, yeah! I don’t know if it’s possible to ever give that desire up, either. At least not for any length of time! I’m a planner, too, but I don’t usually stick to plans for very long. The upshot is that I basically think that if I write up a plan (because, you know, when you write things down, they happen), then I will have some semblance of control. Your post reminded me of a recurring “stress dream” I’ve had for a while, one of the few dreams I can actually make sense out of. Although the time of day and location may vary, the scene is always the same – I’m in the driver’s seat of a car that begins moving backwards, gradually picking up speed, although it never exceeds a certain rate, and the steering wheel and brakes do not respond to my control at all. Yet the curious thing is that in all the times I’ve had this dream, I’ve never yet crashed or even bumped into anything. I’m not completely sure what that means (any dream interpreters out there?), except for in one instance in which I had the distinct sense that God was holding on to the wheel. The second thing your post reminded me of was how much we hate feeling helpless, something I blogged on this week in relation to current events. But if we knew the Master Plan, well, I guess we’d balk, or pout, or refuse to get in the car, or just plow full steam ahead with instructions in hand and try to do it all ourselves. So what’s a body to do but hope they won’t crash into anything even though they don’t have control of the brakes or wheel? :-)

    • Wow, thank you for sharing Lucie.
      I’ve had times in my life where dreams played a very big part – almost like spiritual warfare, don’t know. But it’s in our sleep that we are least in control, most vulnerable.

      • Many times I have been asking God questions do as to figure out what will happen in my future do that I can have done peace if mind, but I understand now that if I received those answers I wouldn’t be living a life of faith add God has asked of us. Knowing everything is such a bore, now I want to live my life being surprised by God in everything therefore learning to trust Him, not hoping that he will see me through but knowing that He already had and that it is all good and better than I could have ever thought. As a Christian, I have found myself saying I believe yet still doubting. I strive to really know God and truly Trust Him!

  5. I’m in my mid-fifties, and I just recently realized God’s plan for my life. Love God and love others.

  6. There’s a whole discussion going on about this over at The High Calling today – on David Platt’s book “Follow Me.”

  7. The response I always hear to something like this is the “yes, but…” “Yes, Melissa, we agree with you that God’s in control and He’ll provide and we don’t have to worry about anything, but we still need to plan according to what we expect things will look like six months from now. We need to be practical.”

    Yes…I seem to remember in the “hall of faith” all of those people who did what was “practical…” oh wait…….not a single one of them did what was practical. And it was accounted to them as righteousness.

  8. YES!

    Seek to know God.

    Here’s a big question, when we worship, are we worshiping God or our experience of God? When we seek to know God, do we think we’ll know all of her?

    We can’t know the mind of another. We can put labels on others and strive to keep them in their boxes. We can do that to God to. But real relationships are messy and there’s a lot of unknown. Hard to celebrate the mystery in another person, let alone God, let alone ourselves.

    • Ooh! That’s a good question. God, or just our experience. One is the never-changing, eternal force that created the universe. The other is shaped by our emotions, darkened minds, and whatever mood we happen to be in at the time.

  9. Love God and love people seems to sum it up. Well that’s the general plan for everyone who has a relationship with Christ. But there’s also that individual plan–the unique purpose why God allowed each individual to live on this planet. Now for that, you’ll have to trust God.

  10. In Christ, we are free. truly free.

    What do you want to do? That’s what you should do.

    God will make use of you in whatever vocation or avocation you choose.

    “We walk by faith…”

  11. I wish I had read this post about 15 years ago, when our kids were growing up and getting ready to move out and I was wondering what to do with myself. The Purpose Driven Life really sent me into a tailspin.
    I finally came to the same conclusion–God has a plan, but we only get to find out what it is as we live our lives. Sometimes, knowing a tiny piece helps point us in the right direction. but usually we’re more like Abraham. God told him to go without disclosing the destination–and he went.
    We need to obey the light we have, and let God worry about the rest.

  12. Great post, Matt. Yes, the older I get the more I realize that the promise of HIM is all we need. His presence through…means everything.

  13. John Porterfield March 21, 2013 at 11:54 am

    New to this site – love the articles and responses, thank you all. Went to a Monastery in Georgia a couple years ago for a retreat, no I’m Protestant. Came from that week with a different outlook – went there for “Vocational Discernment”, when young men are trying to decide if they want to become Monks, I wasn’t one them, just happened to be the week I chose. What I came away with was the simple realization that God’s purpose for life was very simple, He desired to have ” communion” with me! It didn’t really matter whether I was a teacher, preacher, missionary, or just being a farmer; He desired communion! What freedom! I resemble this article and all I can say about it is, Amen Amen.

  14. Hi Matt, I will turn 49 this year and in June my wife and I will celebrate a wonderful 26 years. I still do not have it figured out. God seems to like to reveal just little pieces at a time. But I guess that is why we need faith. My own blog post today talks about the new open door for my wife and I as we take on the co-pastor role at our church. The door is open wide, but we just can’t see very far down the hall.

  15. Matt,
    Excellent post. In a recent conversation with a guy 10 or so years younger than I, I was asked, “what is your purpose in life?”
    A few months ago, I would have had an answer that ultimately would have had an undertone of serve others so that ultimately I could be served and placed in the spotlight. Recent circumstances have changed that, and I love how it relates to, “Just go.”
    I told him, my purpose is to know God. It’s that simple. I don’t have to know the exact plan that God has for my life. It doesn’t matter. He said get in the car and let’s go. Jeremiah 29:11 tells us not to worry about it. He’s got our stuff packed and has the snacks.

  16. i am 27 and been wandering but thanks to this post Matt.,,i now know my life to know God.

  17. I think you are right about not really knowing God. I have been saved since I was 15 yet I still feel like I don’t know God and what He is doing in my life. I am in my 30’s too and married so I can relate on some level to what you are saying. However, my life has not been so kind to me. I miscarried last year, lost my car and job. I am so poor that I live with my motherinlaw who forces me to go to church with her and do nothing but church-work. I feel empty inside whenever I have to do religious activities and I am beginning to hate churches that preach about nothing but money! I feel so far away from God. My parents abandoned me when tragedies hit my life. How do I know if God won’t do the same thing they did? How can I get in the car with God when the whole time I was in the car, he let me get into wreck after wreck?????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Wow, bless you Sally, that is bad. I am sorry about all the rubbish you’ve been through, and are going through. I think you should be allowed to go to church and be nourished and forget the church work for a good while. This is my beef with churches, yes there is work to be done, but sometimes people forget that God cares more about us as people than what we do church work wise. I just pray that when you choose to get back in the car with God, he protects you and shows you where he has been all the time things have been awful for you. Ask him to show you where Jesus was, and if so, shout at him, he can take it. He loves you to pieces, and if you don’t want to get in the car, ask him if he;ll just take it slow and walk with you.

  18. First of all I think this post was really helpful and I’m very glad that I read it. Right now I am going through a big learning and discovery period in my life were it seems like everyday God reveals something to me that I have forgotten or didn’t know prior. It’s wonderful. Yet, there are also days in this grand entourage where nothing seems to make sense and I seem to be playing with a puzzle that has pieces that could never possibly fit together. I praise God for the days were two pieces fit perfectly and a minuscule section is made understandable. And I realize that you cannot have highs without lows, they both depend on each other in order be defined. Yet, now I guess you could say I’m at one of those low periods where such questions plague me such as: What can we know? Does faith require some reasons or is it based upon pure blindness and trust? Can we ever obtain the knowledge of true truth in our finite human form? Is this relationship with God and trusting in him based off of “blissful ignorance”? I think ignorance is disgusting. Anyone who is ok with living in ignorance and does nothing to acquire wisdom is a fool. Proverbs 4:6-7 “Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding” As a human I accept that we will never be able to know everything in this finite form; we won’t be able to see into the future and determine the exact detailed plan God has for our life. Now I love things that are constant, knowable, attainable, secure and un-altering. For these reasons I adore math, but beyond just math I think all humans desire secure constant within their lives. Yet, many soon find out that no such constant exists! This is why God is all the more attractive to us if one understands the definition of the Christian God correctly; he is a God that is unchanging, it’s part of his very character to be constant! How great and secure this is! I believe we can know God’s will which is clearly laid out in the Bible, yet when we step into the area of our own individual lives things suddenly get a lot hazier. We hold out our hand in the fog and God leads us, we can only see what is immediately around us because as most know its horribly thick fog we can’t even see our feet most of the time. As God leads us he says ok when I say jump you need to jump because there is a hole coming up ahead. Obey me and trust in me. Sometimes it gets really scary and God isn’t even holding on to your hand anymore and its just his faint voice that seems to blend in with the wind and be almost undetectable. Enough with analogies you get the point, its filled with bucket-fulls of uncertainty, which I expressed earlier that I can’t stand. Yet in that equation there is a constant-God, his voice, hand, tug or faint whisper. Often though we don’t even have that, sometimes God is totally silent and this has happened to me often. I think it is those moments that true trust is built. Where you say God I don’t understand why this is happening in my life and I don’t understand why there is no response from you but I am going to obey you and praise you nonetheless, glory to God cries my broken spirit! Anyways I’m getting off on a tangent. Most of this is just me dumping out a lot of what I have been thinking through the past couple months. I guess the overarching theme from what I have learned is that we can’t get away from uncertainty it’s just a part of life but God is the constant that will see us through. I could really relate to the first girl that posted and I don’t think enough was done to address her issue, I think even more expansion upon my post could be done to address her problem. But the real faith builder and reason I am reprocessing a lot of my preconceptions about my trust and faith in the Christian faith relates to my personal life experiences taking place right now. I felt like God was calling me to go on a mission trip to China this summer and take a leap of faith concerning the finances of the trip. I knew that on my own I would have no where near the amount needed to go on the trip and God was still calling me to step out in obedience anyways and take the leap of faith. So I leapt and I’m getting pretty close to the bottom and God still hasn’t caught me yet, so I have nothing left to do but say God, I trust you, let your will be done. I praise you, glory be to you forever and ever!

  19. i am warre about life befor,but since i started study the bible call the word of life,i started have faith in is word and promise over my life.what i find out is that the word of God is the well He lift 4 is children.who have Hope in is name Jesus Christ.thank u and i love u all

  20. God’s ultimate plan for us all is eternal life in heaven. Whether we accept the offer or not is a topic for another blog post. Or car ride. Whatever.

    I really liked the analogy by the way, an english buff, it’s very appealing. :-)

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