god does not have a plan for your life

i’ll get beat up by evangelicals for this, but here goes…

god does not have a plan for your life. not for yours, not for mine. that’s not how god works, and we need to stop thinking that way as soon as possible. there may be some grand design, which by design must have some fixed end, but i am certainly not the center of it, and the decisions i make in between beginning and end are by no means predetermined. we should therefore do the best we can with what we’ve been given, wherever we are.

perhaps god has a plan in general. maybe. but then again, maybe not. but that point is moot. christians need to stop thinking of following jesus and christianity as if following some organizational chart or systematized plan. lose the notion of ‘steps to salvation’. there is no ‘sacred path’. and if there is some cosmic order to life, it is governed by physics and the free-will choices we make, and not by some divine plan that controls our mind and governs us.

the bible offers ways to act, ways to serve, and ways to live that bring us into accordance with what the faithful understand to be god’s prescribed way of living. we are asked to make decisions, and to make good ones. we are asked to be loving neighbors and faithful servants, regardless of the circumstances, and regardless of the faith, race, gender, or socio-economic makeup of others.

sometimes, two choices are set before us, and one decision is clearly beneficial, while the other is clearly harmful. these choices are easy to make. but other times, we may be presented with two or three equally good options. in these cases, god does not lead you to make one decision over the other, and he certainly does not choose for you! the choice is ours and ours alone. god only asks that the faithful consider his instructions, namely, to treat all peoples with kindness whatever they decide and wherever they go.

the will of god certainly does not revolve around us. christians need to stop thinking this way. and yes, it is a product of this whole ‘personal jesus’ movement, which focuses solely on the individual consumer christian, and all too often neglects the larger community that jesus specifically asked his followers to serve, namely, the poor, the oppressed, and the neglected.

why do christians do this? perhaps it is to avoid responsibility for their decisions by claiming divine sanction for their choices. that is to say, christians may argue, “i was supposed to change careers because that is part of god’s plan for my life.” or perhaps, “i am supposed to move to a new town because it is a part of god’s plan for my life.”

but this kind of thinking causes a potential dilemma to the “god-has-a-plan-for-my-life christian”. specifically, what happens when the decision ultimately proves to be a bad one? what happens when the girl leaves, or the move is a disaster, or the job gets laid off? did god make a wrong choice? this kind of thinking usually results in the “god-has-a-plan-for-my-life christian” left wondering, “but god led me here,” which is a far less crackpot way of saying, “god told me to do it.”

what is worse, there is often a stubborn rationality that follows a decision that did not go as planned. unfortunately, many “god-has-a-plan-for-my-life christians” attempt to (mis)use their own misguided understanding of god’s will in a desperate attempt to guilt others into doing what they want. for instance, imagine the engaged man whose fiancée broke off their engagement. he truly believed that she was a part of god’s plan for his life. when she left, he tells her, “but god wants us together.” later, in retrospect, the man realizes that he was simply abusing his understanding of ‘god’s will’ to guilt a girl into staying with him.

this is the problem with the misguided notion that ‘god has a plan for my life’. it is essentially a forfeiture of responsibility, a trait so common among christians seeking an excuse for their selfish actions, a pardon their misdeeds, and an explanation for their failed relationships.

stop acting like every decision you make is a right or wrong one, black or white, for there is so much color in the world, and several shades of gray. jump out and embrace life. make good decisions. if you are of faith, bring god’s prescribed way of living into your life. god does not live our lives for us. he is not the micromanaging trail guide telling us which way to turn in the forest. for the faithful, he is more like the compass pointing us in the correct general direction. the individual paths we choose are our decisions, and ours alone. god simply asks that we head the right direction, and help others along the way.

it is not about god’s plan for you. it is about your participation in his world. he asks the faithful to make wise decisions, and asks them to bring him with wherever they go, whatever they choose. he does not make the decisions, he just wants to come along.

god does not have a plan for your life. your life is yours to live. stop worrying about life after death, and start living the life you have now. if you live it well, the afterlife will take care of itself.

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7 Responses

  1. “i was supposed to change careers because that is part of god’s plan for my life.” or perhaps, “i am supposed to move to a new town because it is a part of god’s plan for my life.”

    I know this guy. He would write letters to radio preachers asking whether it was God’s will that he do such-and-such

  2. Take a look in the comments to this blog post (http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2008/11/can-you-marry-the-wrong-person/) to see exactly how many Christian’s deal with bad decisions vs God’s-Plan-for-Me. It really is remarkable, the capacity to rationalize away God’s apparent failure.

    On the other hand, look at the blogger’s response (http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2008/10/the-day-god-went-left-and-i-went-right/) to God’s seeming failure to prevent his sister’s suicide. One can always blame oneself for failing to properly read the (non-)sign’s of God’s Will.

    Good luck with your message. You may well need it.

  3. Bob, as always I enjoy your insight.

    I’ve been wrestling with this idea for years. I feel strangely enough that, at least for me, being raised in the church of christ actually positioned me towards the belief you expressed here. Unlike other evangelical protestant denominations, the CoC has rarely bought into the more supernatural version of God’s presence in our lives (e.g. speaking in tongues, miracle healings, and literal interp. of Revelation). Maybe this stems from the tradition’s unintentional mimicry of Rabbinical Judaism…

    However sometimes I feel like your position (which is generally the same as mine) is a little too Deistic. Having been exposed to the fervent faith of my evangelical/ pentecostal friends and relatives, I at times feel too doubtful of God’s continuing presence in our lives.

    While my intellect tells me that you’re right, I still harbor hope that maybe you’re wrong (at least a little). While I don’t care much for speaking in tongues or the rapture, the occasional faith healing or small miracle would be nice…

    Tom Shaydac likes to say “Coicidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.” The good thing is, even if you’re wrong- it won’t stop God from bringing the occasional cancer patient into remission.

  4. yes tin, i have been called a practicing agnostic, a deist, an existentialist, a reformed jew, and by one unnamed pepperdine theologian, a heretic. i refer to myself as an ‘academic christian’, which only feeds all of the above sentiments.
    ; – )

    i like your comment about about how many of those who were raised in the cofc are unknowingly following the pattern of rabbinic judaism. it is probably no surprise that this is the part of the cofc that i like. while steeped in traditions and doctrines that are fundamentally incompatible with modern science and a modern understanding of god, there is something about a tradition rooted in scripture and that does not seek to show off its ‘supernatural’ or ‘charismatic’ gifts that is not only appealing, but reassuring. still, i find myself more of a wesleyan when it comes to the use of rational thought to work through theological issues. i tend to lean more towards process theology, despite its many shortcomings, simply because systematic theology has come to be riddled with false or problematic apologetics, harmonization, and reliance on statements and principals of early creeds and church fathers that are, by any modern standard, fallacious, uninformed, anti-semitic/bigoted, isogetical, self-fulfilling, sectarian, and outright untrue.

    that said, i’m still a person of faith. there are many things in the bible that we can now explain. yet, there are many things we cannot. coincidence may be god’s way of remaining anonymous, but the fact that he chooses anonymity is intriguing. in fact, i like god that way….

  5. Calvin must be turning in his grave.

  6. he’s still there. ironically, the choices regarding what to do with our lives after we die are up to god. ;- )

  7. Loved this post, Bob. I’m new here, but I think I’ll stick around. The closing paragraphed slammed it all home for me. How true that is. I’m looking forward to the day that a significant amount of Western Christians begin living the life they have now as if it mattered.
    It may be awhile. In the mean time, that’s what I’m feebly trying to do.. It’s encouraging to see I’m not alone.
    -Chase

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