God Does Not Have a Plan for Your Life

God Does Not Have a Plan for Your Life October 2, 2021

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As a former pastor, I remember the faces of people that were visiting for the first time.  The were always a bit more attentive than the other members.  They were a little more hesitant to be demonstrative, but they looked hopeful in a cautious sort of way.  This always made me hopeful that they would be a new addition to the “fold.”  Maybe they would be the right mix of maturity and hopeful, optimism that we needed at this place.  I didn’t want to look at them as prospects, but that was what I did.  Most of the energy, especially in small churches, is about surviving and that means that we always needed new members.

But eventually the newness would wear off and the individual or family would gain the courage to speak to us honestly and they would reveal their woundedness.  Oddly enough, it was usually from another church or from a family situation that didn’t go well.  Sometimes this would happen internally as a teenager or young adult would gain the courage to ask some tough question and reveal their own struggles and hurts.  This always made us a bit uncomfortable, since we were limited in our abilities, but we also knew they wouldn’t go see a professional counselor or therapist.  So, we did our best to try to help them.

Because we were uncomfortable and we knew they were desperate, we did what religious people often do and we bypassed the real issues with religious sounding quick fixes that really didn’t address the root problems.  In our hearts, we knew we weren’t really solving anything, but we hoped God would do something miraculous eventually.  We told them we would pray for them and that we cared about them and we understood.  But often we told them something that is a little too common — we told them God had a purpose and a plan for their lives.

It is based on Jeremiah 29:11, where God apparently promised Israel (broadly) that he had plans for them while they were in captivity.  Eventually, they were released from their bondage, but the passage is not addressed to anyone else even though it has been used and abused by the multitudes to imagine God having a specific plan and purpose for each of us.  It gives us temporary comfort, but I now understand it to have some negative repercussions.

If I told one of my children, “I have a plan for you.”  Their first question would be, “What is it?”  But, therein lies the problem.  As a pastor for 20 years, I would say the most common issues is that almost all of the congregation is still searching for this illusive plan and purpose.  They believe they have one (because God gave it to them), but they go to conferences and read books and listen intently every Sunday hoping they will uncover the details.  In my opinion, this lostness keeps them in a state of perpetual shame and makes them vulnerable.

Eventually, church members are then swept up into purpose and plan of the pastor and church organization.  Subtly, they will come to understand that at least part of their purpose and plan could and should be to:

  • Adopt a congruent belief system with the church
  • Attend a good church (probably this one since God led you here)
  • Give some of your money to the church (10% is recommended)
  • Get involved and help us reach our plan and purposes (because they’re certainly ordained by God)
  • Don’t cause trouble or ask too many questions and help the organization flourish
  • Read your Bible, pray and attend sanctioned activities

Even though we told people God had an individual purpose and plan for them, it’s easy to be swept up into the purpose and plans of the larger group — it even seems noble and sometime it might be.  But, don’t we have the right and maybe even the responsibility to find our own way?  What if we pursued the plans and purposes that we know to be right for us?  Because those question cause us to fear, we often jumped back on the organized religion train instead of pursuing what we thought was right for us — it was just easier.

I don’t believe God has an individual purpose and plan for each of us.  I think that is something we humans devised to bring an immediate sense of comfort even though it bypasses root issues.  To explore what we desire the most and what is most appropriate to pursue takes genuine reflection and deep inner work.  I believe it’s worth it and I have seen some fruits for my labor.

I am certain that there are base principles like love, compassion, and kindness that are common and helpful to each of our plans and most likely are OF God: but, I am coming to understand a deeper knowing inside each of us that is capable of determining what is the right path for each of us.  I believe we know the deep longings of our hearts and what fulfills us deep within.  WE know the plans we have for ourselves — and they are specific, not general!

I hope you discover YOUR plans and purposes for YOURSELF.

When we quit searching for the elusive God-plan, we can find the real plan and purpose for our lives.  Oddly enough, it’s where Jesus said the Kingdom of God is — inside us!

God’s involvement is more like a question we would ask child when we have an open schedule, “What do you want to do today — let’s go do that together!”

Be where you are, Be who you are,

Karl Forehand

Order Being: A Journey Toward Presence and Authentic

Karl Forehand is a former pastor, podcaster, and award-winning author. His books include Apparent Faith: What Fatherhood Taught Me About the Father’s Heart and The Tea Shop. He is the creator of The Desert Sanctuary podcast. He is married to his wife Laura of 32 years and has one dog named Winston. His three children are grown and are beginning to multiply!

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3 responses to “God Does Not Have a Plan for Your Life”

  1. You sound like John Shelby Spong, making me wonder why call yourself a Christian at all.

  2. Well, why would your deistic God have a plan for anyone’s life? He’s ignored the world since he created it and doesn’t interact with it.

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