Planning When Everything Is Uncertain

A Facebook funny is making the rounds. It goes something like “So in 2015 not one single person got the right answer to, ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’” True. We didn’t. When at the beginning of the year we were all prognosticating and planning for a clear vision in 2020, we didn’t see clearly at all what was coming. Who said “Man plans. God laughs”? They were right. And we are now faced with planning for the Fall knowing that the pandemic will be on us and likely growing in intensity. How do we plan when our situation is changing and the future unknown? And by the way, isn’t that always true, not just this Summer but every Summer and every year? How do we, you or me, plan for tomorrow?

First, we should. James 4 contains a passage that chastises people over planning for the future but not for planning itself. James chastises people for planning arrogantly, thinking that God won’t, or can’t, change what they plan. Obviously He can. Man plans. God laughs. So plan with change in mind, with God in mind, and in pencil.

Plan according to calling and purpose. When I was young and starting college, I had no idea where life and God’s will would take me. If I had foreseen the places I have been along this journey, I could not have believed it. I could not have planned this. I knew one thing. I had a calling, and I had to live that calling. I had a purpose, revealed in desires and giftedness in this area, and that purpose gave me a target to aim for. Be a pastor. Teach. Preach. You have a purpose and calling too. Seek it then let it guide you.

Plan and walk with the Spirit. This is maybe the most important step on this list. We are, unlike anyone else in the world, indwelt by God’s Spirit. We are in touch with the heart of God and the mind of God. If, and there’s the rub, if we actively participate, if we walk in it to use the Bible’s words, we are led to people and to places where we need to be, and we are given abilities far beyond our own to make a difference, to change things, and to be changed. This walking in the Spirit, this moment by moment, never stopping, unceasing life of on purpose, intentional contact with God is challenging but is oh so rewarding. Frank Laubach wrote of his effort to live always under the power of the Spirit. He said that even as he typed, as I am doing now, he tried to will his fingers to be guided by God wanting each finger to type nothing but the will of God. He would use those fingers to write, “This constant focusing on God is difficult to be sure, but everything else in my life is getting easier. I need something and turn round to find it waiting for me. I feel carried along by a power and purpose I have never before known.”

When we walk with the Spirit, we plan but plans change. Interruptions become God’s voice. Surprises, coincidences, become God’s interventions. Read the Gospels and watch how that happens even to Jesus. Or read Acts and see it happen over and over to Peter and then to Paul. We make our plans. God laughs. And He leads us. And He guides us. And His will is done.

We as a church need to learn this lesson. Planning is more about praying together than it is thinking together. We as individuals need to learn this too. We have a purpose that gives us a direction and then a winding changeable path the Spirit leads us down. But in this change, God leads us where He wants us to be.