God Doesn’t Have a Plan for Your Life

This is the sort of thinking from “moderate” Christians that I can’t stand.

They make stuff up, wrap it in “life-inspiring” packaging, and Christians swallow it whole.

Case in point, this post from author Don Miller. I actually liked one of his books a lot. But this post frustrates me.

His goal is to say God doesn’t have a “specific plan for your life.” Rather, he gives you the free will to do what you want.

Which, of course, is something he just made up.

I’m sure he can find support from other Christian writers/theologians, but it’s all interpretation and it’s no more or less believable than what a fundamentalist believes.

At the end, he tries to make a joke… but it falls flat for me.

Here’s how you know, based on scripture, whether God has a specific plan for your life:

1. If you are a virgin and you get pregnant anyway.

2. If your donkey talks to you.

3. If an angel wants to wrestle.

If any of this happens to you, God is definitely at work. He also wants you to see a counselor.

And there are a few more. You get the point. If God has something specific for you, you’ll know, I promise. But if He is setting a box of crayons down in front of you (a box of crayons called life) then by all means draw. He’s taught you right from wrong, good from bad, beautiful from profane, so draw. He will be with you, proud of you, cheering you on, so draw. He loves you, so draw in the inspiration of the knowledge of His love. Draw a purple horse, a red ocean, a nine-legged dog, it doesn’t matter. Lets stop being so afraid. Lets live, and show the world what it really means to be grateful we don’t live in a dysfunctional family.

In other words, the miracles that we’re told happened in the Bible are *obviously* ridiculous. It’s never going to happen to you. [I assume some Christians would find this funny... which boggles my mind, because they're the ones who actually believe these things.]

Miller goes on to say that you’ll just know if God has a plan for you because… you’ll just know.

If you have a creative thought, that’s not your neurons firing. That’s God giving you the inspiration.

If you have a special talent, that’s not your hard work and skill. That’s God giving you a gift.

If you have a child, that’s not basic biology at play. That’s God working a miracle.

It all sounds very nice and, I’m sure, comforting for Christians reading it.

But if you read the comments on that thread, it’s easy to tell no one is bothering to think critically about what he’s saying. They’re just soaking it in, repeating it, and acting like it’s something profound, when in fact Miller is saying nothing of the sort.

So let’s tell the truth — something you won’t find in Miller’s posting.

God doesn’t have a specific plan for your life.

God doesn’t even have a general plan for your life.

The only plan anyone has for your life is the one you come up with. Hopefully, you have the support of friends and family to make it happen. But no gods are there to help or guide you.

Personally, I’m inspired by that. I get to choose how to live my life. I have to find my own skills and hone them. If I make mistakes, I have to learn from them because it’s not like there’s some god out there “testing” me. I don’t have to attribute any success to some imaginary voice in my head.

That’s powerful.

  • Autumnal Harvest

    If you have a creative thought, that’s not your neurons firing. That’s God giving you the inspiration.

    If you have a special talent, that’s not your hard work and skill. That’s God giving you a gift.

    If you have a child, that’s not basic biology at play. That’s God working a miracle.

    It all sounds very nice and, I’m sure, comforting for Christians reading it.

    I just clicked through and read Miller’s post, and was unable to find any statements even remotely resembling the ones you describe here.

  • http://www.takedeadaimontherichkids.blogspot.com Alice

    @Autumnal Harvest I’m not sure what you read, but I found it right away.

  • Erp

    The only plan anyone has for your life is the one you come up with. Hopefully, you have the support of friends and family to make it happen. But no gods are there to help or guide you.

    Not quite true. Various people/groups may have plans for you also (e.g., your parents or guardians when you are young, mandatory schooling decreed by the state, military service in some countries (or arranged marriages in others)) and though you might have some leeway in changing their plans for some people that might be difficult. I agree no god is there to help (or hinder) though impersonal nature will affect things (e.g., inherit a genetic disease, live in area hit by a tsunami).

  • XPK

    Lets live, and show the world what it really means to be grateful we don’t live in a dysfunctional family.

    Wow. I’m curious how Christianity is not dysfunctional when you have thousands of separate sects?

  • Autumnal Harvest

    Alice, care to share an actual quote?

  • Bo

    I really liked Blue Like Jazz a lot, too. It was funny, honest, and it changed a lot of how I perceived Christians and their practice of Christianity.

    I read his next book and some of his other writings and have been profoundly disappointed.

    Hemant, you need to write the atheist equivalent of Blue Like Jazz!

  • Ron in Houston

    This sort of reminds me of the folks who say “what’s the purpose of life?” I always want to say, “Duh, to live!”

  • Jwbavar

    I love that I no longer believe in a God who plans my life. It means I’m allowed to choose what I want to do, and I can change my mind too. If something isn’t working for me, then I can change it without feeling guilty. :)

  • fritzy

    As a non-believer, I find the musing of believers regarding the true nature of god to be as relevant and substantial as the daily horoscope. The sad thing is that a majority of people in the world at this moment are investing so much time and so much energy into running this ethereal hamster wheel.

    Ironic, really, when believers try to tell me something is missing from my life. Having been in both circumstances, I can safely say that life is so much easier when resources are not expended on trying to guess the whims of an invisible friend who is protrayed in the scriptures as arbitrary, mercurial and downright viscious at times.

  • Luther

    What it were a box of bullets in front of you instead of crayons? Would you think it was God’s design to use them?

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna
    Lets live, and show the world what it really means to be grateful we don’t live in a dysfunctional family.

    Wow. I’m curious how Christianity is not dysfunctional when you have thousands of separate sects?

    Or when acceptance into the “family” is so obviously conditional. There’s nothing more dysfunctional than a family rejecting members who happen to have different thoughts and opinions. The love of a church “family” is never unconditional. There are always strings attached.

  • http://thenaturalbuddhist.blogspot.com JohnFrost

    You know, if I was one of those ministers-who’ve-lost-their-faith, but was either too afraid or too financially dependent to walk out straight away… it seems like this would be the kind of thing I would try to tell my followers.

  • fiddler

    @Autumnal Harvest
    2nd para: “The point is we think God is going to tell us exactly what to do, but chances are, He isn’t. It’s just not a Biblical idea.”
    7th para: “It’s as though God sets before us a big sheet of butcher paper and hands us a box of crayons and tells us to dream.”
    Last para: “If God has something specific for you, you’ll know, I promise. But if He is setting a box of crayons down in front of you (a box of crayons called life) then by all means draw. He’s taught you right from wrong, good from bad, beautiful from profane, so draw. He will be with you, proud of you, cheering you on, so draw. He loves you, so draw in the inspiration of the knowledge of His love. Draw a purple horse, a red ocean, a nine-legged dog, it doesn’t matter. Lets stop being so afraid. Lets live, and show the world what it really means to be grateful we don’t live in a dysfunctional family.”

  • Trace

    From one of the comments:

    “I know for me, my desire to know God’s will for my life is usually driven by fear. I am scared of making the wrong choice.”

    I find that sad.

  • Andrew Morgan

    I think Hemant is misreading (or being uncharitable in his reading).

    Don Miller isn’t just saying “You’ll just know” and leaving it at that; he gives a list of ways in which you will know: you’ll be the recipient of a blatant miracle. How do we know it’s a blatant miracle? Because it’s something that doesn’t happen all that often.

    For Hemant to equate “You’re a virgin and get pregnant anyway” with “You have a creative thought” is silly.

    Don Miller’s sentiment is the kind I think that we as atheists should applaud. Sure, it would be nice if people weren’t religious, but I would prefer a world of independent-thinking theists who ran their own lives and didn’t wait for God to do it.

    Hemant writes that “The only plan anyone has for your life is the one you come up with.” Don Miller writes “Draw a purple horse, a red ocean, a nine-legged dog, it doesn’t matter. Lets stop being so afraid. Lets live[.]”

    They sound awfully similar to me.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant

    @Andrew They do sound similar. So why attribute any of that to a god? Miller is saying it’s God giving them the tools needed for all that, which is just silly.

  • Andrew Morgan

    Ahh! Hey Hemant! I’ve never had the owner of a blog write back! So cool!

    I’d say he’s explicitly arguing against what you’re thinking he’s arguing for. The point of his post (as I read it) is saying, “Look folks. God isn’t doing every little thing in your life. You have to do it and figure it out.” He’s writing the post to dissuade people from thinking that *everything* comes from God, rather than merely the tools and the sandbox. He writes that it would be “dysfunctional” for God to dictate everything that happens in your life.

    I just don’t see in his post that he’s attributing that much to God. He says God’s taught “right from wrong, good from bad, beautiful from profane”, but leaves it up to the individual to discover most everything else.

    I don’t disagree that including God in the equation is superfluous (ah, Laplace springs to mind — “I had no need of that hypothesis”), so I get what you’re saying. He does make it clear that he believes God on some basic level has given us a set of tools — the crayons, in his metaphor.

    But I’d argue that giving us the tools and giving us the product are two different things. We can make a distinction between “God gave us brains” and “God made me a great composer.” I find the second a lot more lamentable than the first, but I think Miller would agree with me. So in that respect, I think he’s right on.

  • http://awakeanddreaming.org/ Roshan

    If your donkey talks to you….your name is Shrek!

  • Mike

    Miller is saying it’s God giving them the tools needed for all that, which is just silly.

    Hemant, it’s not silly to Christians. Our worldview of God is he is all-powerful and all-knowing…he created the universe and all that is in it, he has bestowed upon every creature unique abilities and gifts as he has seen fit, and therefore everything that we receive is from God…

    1 Corinthians 4:7 “…What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?”

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    Reminds me of when I was sitting in Starbucks a few days ago, listening to a group of young Catholics discussing the finer points of dogma (e.g. the various forms of grace that God gives to mankind). Couldn’t help but feel like I was hearing a discussion about the various types and colors of fabric that the emperor uses to trim his new clothes.

  • spink

    I’m glad that Hemant is critiquing Donald Miller’s flawed rhetoric. Miller is an entertaining and feel-good writer, and that draws people in, but as Hemant said, he’s still just making stuff up.

    I don’t understand the joke either–

    “Here’s how you know, based on scripture, whether God has a specific plan for your life:

    1. If you are a virgin and you get pregnant anyway.

    2. If your donkey talks to you.

    3. If an angel wants to wrestle.

    If any of this happens to you, God is definitely at work. He also wants you to see a counselor.”

    So.. the underlying message is that anyone who actually hears from God in a miraculous way should visit a real-life counselor to sort it out? aka God doesn’t exist.

  • Axl

    The way I see it: If you do not have a plan for your life, whomever you hand power to, will have a plan for your life. And it is not god.

    If you do not decide what you want to do with your life, your boss, pimp, local drug dealer, minister, partner and so on will decide for you.

    Make up your mind. Focus. Make it happen. There is no second chance in the Nirvanas of the afterlife (except for the multitude of organisms that is going to feed on your flesh if you are not burned to ashes).

  • Claudia

    Frankly at its core I don’t see that this:

    Lets stop being so afraid. Lets live, and show the world what it really means to be grateful we don’t live in a dysfunctional family.

    leads to a life all that different from this:

    The only plan anyone has for your life is the one you come up with. Hopefully, you have the support of friends and family to make it happen. But no gods are there to help or guide you.

    Yes, I share the frustration of attributing things to god, but my general feeling is that Miller is in fact directing Christians to, essentially, stop attributing things to god all the time and take responsibility for their own decisions. I think that’s quite healthy actually. Sure I disagree strongly that the tools (or “crayons”) are gifts from god, but the core message is a great one. Stop expecting god to provide everything, start taking your own initiative. It seems pretty likely that someone who took this advice to heart would start living more like a nonbeliever, the ultimate person who is not waiting around for god/s to intervene, so even though it’s still based on religious faith, I think its a great attitude to take.

    Oh, and I thought the joke was pretty funny, for what that’s worth.

  • http://melliferax.wordpress.com Melliferax

    Teaching us beautiful from profane? Since when are the two antonymous? Blah.

    Anyway, I must say I find the joke hilarious, but mostly because it implies that this guy apparently thinks that people who actually have “miraculous” experiences are crazy. Which makes me wonder what the hell he’s basing his faith on. Are miracles only real if they happened 2000 years ago?

  • spink

    Melliferax said: “I must say I find the joke hilarious, but mostly because it implies that this guy apparently thinks that people who actually have “miraculous” experiences are crazy. Which makes me wonder what the hell he’s basing his faith on. Are miracles only real if they happened 2000 years ago?”

    Exactly– that’s the impression that I got, that Miller is undermining the base for his whole faith. So I guess it is quite funny but perhaps not in the way that he intended it to be…?

    And yes, I think that many church-goers believe that miracles like the virgin birth are a thing of the past, whereas today’s “miracles” are things like “ooh, a pretty flower!” or “wow, that girl got rescued by a MAN who was led by God” — it is no longer acceptable to experience a miracle that can’t be explained logically. Their twisted logic is that the stuff of the Bible is now the stuff of schizophrenia, but the word “miracle” can still be applied to everyday events.

  • muggle

    Andrew, how does it make something a miracle just because it doesn’t happen all that often. A miracle would have to be something unexplainable by any other means. Which rather explains why they never happen any more.

    In short, science has explained away the miracles. Doctors raise Lazurus’ that appear dead all the time. We now know was a solar eclipse is rather than thinking the sun stood still. Any good magician can turn water into wine or a stick into a snake. A counselor is suggested if you hear god speak to you and plan out your life because we now know about psychosis and hallicination. (No, I’m not getting how that’s a joke either unless the joke’s on believers because there is no god.)

    I’m not bothering to click on the link. Just sounds like rather mundane wishy-washy stuff. I’m with the others who say who cares if they plan their own life because this article says don’t leave it to god or if they do because there’s no god to do it for them. I’m cool with their leaving god out of it either way.

    Especially since all too often those who leaving planning their life up to god have a tendency to translate god’s voice into kill the infidels.

  • http://criticallyskeptic.blogspot.com Kevin

    If god exists, and if he has a plan for my life, it’s obvious that his plan for my life is for me to burn in Hell for eternity. That’s why “god has a plan” sickens me to no end. Christians say that god is full of love, and yet at the same time, he would eternally condemn those that are rational and skeptical, or those who love science and nature. In the same nature, it was god who made us the ways we are, so we were screwed from birth.

    “God has a plan” means that every person ruthlessly slain for no reason, every child who is abused and spoiled by someone who is supposed to protect them, every person who lives each day slowly dying from starvation or disease, and every woman beaten by a ‘loving’ husband is part of god’s ‘wonderful’ plan.

    Rant over… I’m really pissed for some reason…

  • alex

    1. If you are a virgin and you get pregnant anyway.

    Uh-huh. Right.

    2. If your donkey talks to you.

    Then I know I smoked the good stuff.

    3. If an angel wants to wrestle.

    Then I know it was some REALLY amazing shit.

  • Edmond

    Is it just me, or does anyone else think it’s creepy that a Christian’s idea of being inspired and creative is to draw a “red ocean”?

  • Tacroy

    Hemant, it’s not silly to Christians. Our worldview of God is he is all-powerful and all-knowing…

    I’d just like to point out that “free will” and “all-knowing God” are fundamentally incompatible, as long as you want to keep your “worldview” self-consistent. Either God knows everything, in which case free will is an illusion; or God doesn’t know everything, in which case you may or may not have free will.

    If God is all-knowing, then He knows everything, including the sequence of all actions you will ever take in your lifetime. Therefore, you have no free will – all actions you will ever take are already predetermined and known to another agent, and you are merely acting them all out one after the other while congratulating yourself on how free-willed you are.

    If you say “well, God only knows what actions you’re likely to take because of quantum“, then you’ve weakened your position; God is no longer all-knowing, He’s now only mostly-knowing. And that’s fine, there’s really nothing wrong with a mostly-knowing God, just like there was nothing wrong with Alexander the Very Good. It’s just, you know, not the same.

  • Pingback: Meta-Critique: Mehta on Miller « A Great Work

  • Roger B

    Dear Hemant Mehta,
    You are right about many things, but wrong about a few. Your talents and abilities are yours, but the origin of these are by divine design. God doesn’t know everything, and you have a free-will to do whatsoever pleases you; even to please someone else. God loves you because you are one of His creations. Yes, many “christians” are taught wrong and believe it; that’s their fault for not being an individual thinker, and believing the ‘teacher’.
    God’s PLAN is to persuade you of His love, but He wants you to surrender your life to Him. That is a very BIG decision; something like marriage: a commitment of love for the rest of your life.
    Paraphasing scripture: Everyone is without excuse to know of God, by the evidence in nature. Accidents do not have a designed order, nature has order, else it would not continue. A car has ‘order’ by design, but after hitting a tree at a hundred miles per/hour, it has no ‘order’ or function as it was intended by its designers. We have ‘order’ by design, even innate morals that tell us what is evil or good.

    Roger

  • Roger B

    Dear Hemant Mehta,
    1. If you are a virgin and you get pregnant anyway.
    2. If your donkey talks to you.
    3. If an angel wants to wrestle.
    For the record: These 3 things were under God’s Old Testament. Jesus doesn’t operate in this manner, so if anyone sees these things happen today, yea, you should see a counselor.

  • NoOneYouKnow

    One thing I hate, is that I’m endlessly frustrated with life. I have always believed in God since I was young (though I was raised Christian). But as Christians, we believe God has some specific purpose to our lives (which gives life some real excitement). Still, I question whether God has anything specific He wants me to do. I’ve tried different things that I had no passion for and that weren’t necessarily Biblical all the while praying that God would stop me if it wasn’t His will just to see if He would. You know what? As long as I tried real hard at whatever I pursued, the results were the same…I succeeded.
    Life would be so much more comforting if God had a specific purpose for each one of us, it would make us feel more important than “just another person in the world”, but the sad truth is, we’re all just a bunch of people here on Earth. We’re born, we make choices, we die, others are born, etc. on a planet that orbits a star endlessly with no set reason for being in existence.

    • Ilovesunvalley

      I totally relate! Thank you for this comment!!! I’m 46, been working hard at a job, got my masters and yet I still feel this hollow flat feeling inside.
      Maybe its related to being divorced and not having a family of my own but I have a hard time finding meaning. Life seems random and lonely.

  • Justin Zinn

    Author, you have agreed with the nature of Donald Miller’s argument with only one exception, the existence of God. All Christians are taught to believe that God does* have a specific desire for every person and they shouldn’t act until they know what it is. Donald Miller’s post is shocking and goes against every historic “Christian” interpretation I’ve studied. In the same way, you agree with him. Namely, you also believe God doesn’t have a will for individuals, but for you it may be more about the fact that God doesn’t exist (in your belief). For Donald Miller, God gives freedom to his children. You see, Miller stands between Atheists and conventional Christian thinking. I’m surprised you missed this point.


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