Happy New Year’s Eve! The changing of the calendars always brings my control-freak self great excitement. Just this past week, I’ve been busying myself planning for the 2016. In fact, I was so busy planning out the whole of next year that I actually lagged behind on the things I need to do this week to close out 2015 – like this blog post *ehem*. I shouldn’t be so surprised, this is typical of me. When I got up and out of bed today, I immediately proceeded to look over my planner. I felt proud and excited. I tend to feel my best when things are laid out nice and clear, when I know what to expect and what to look forward to. It’s going to be a great year, I told myself. I tweaked and played with January 2016 for about an hour or so, then I remembered I hadn’t done my daily devotions yet. Oops.
So I went and opened today’s extremely appropriate (New Year’s Eve-themed) assigned reading that comes from James 4, verses 13-16.
Ouch. Before I quote the verse, I want to clarify some things. I’m
a planner an over-planner, you see. Part of my think-centric nature is the tendency to over-plan things then expect other people to execute them exactly according to my specifications. I thrive on planning committees and in pointing out the 10,000 things that can go wrong with other peoples’ plans. I have no problem making projections into the future. I do, however, have a problem with bringing these plans into fruition. While other planners also have the ability to stick to their plans, I do not. When things start going awry and not the way I planned it out to be, I often get angry, frustrated and give up.
Let’s go back to my gut-wrenching devotional reading of the day. James 4:13-16 says:
13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.
I’ve read this verse and have it spoken to me many times before, but today it is as fresh as the first time I read it. How many New Year’s Days have I spent pining over the next year, proud in the assurance that I got my life together? How many other days do I spend in the middle of the year crying when my plans go wrong and prove to be just my own but not God’s?
I realized that what happened today is just a smaller scale version of the big picture of how my life tends to run when I get caught up in my own self. I wake up, make plans and feel pride in them – investing my heart and hopes in them – all without coming to God and His Word first.
The problem lies not in the planning. The problem lies in the planning by myself. It lies in the arrogant thinking that I’m self-sufficient, that I’m self-determinant, that I can manipulate my life into whatever I wish it to become. It lies in boasting that I can hold Time itself in my hand and in presuming that I hold my next year, my next month, my next day or my next breath. Because I don’t. This year could be my last. Today could be my last. Our best laid plans are bound to fail us because we are bound to fail ourselves. Verse 16 and 17 even goes as far to call this attitude as sin – because pride is sin. Pride is what we have when we think of ourselves as masters of our own destiny – an idea that is so ingrained in our millennial age of self-help and self-reliance.
No, the problem is not in the planning or in looking forward. The Bible tells us that we are to have vision or else we will perish. But it is also clear in saying that, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21.
His purpose. His plan. His will. D.V. Deo volente. God willing. We are to constantly be reminded that God holds the ultimate blueprint of Time and Space in His hands. Whatever and however we may try to plan for our future, He is still sovereign and we, as His children are to live and plan our lives seeking His will first and foremost.
When we do so, we avoid outright sin by relying on God rather than ourselves. We place ourselves in a position of humility before God – surrendering our will to His. We accept, instead of struggle against, the fact that we cannot control our lives – but also that God does and He knows what is best for us. When we surrender our will to God, He never disappoints. He in turn gives us freedom to live life that may be totally spontaneous and totally the opposite of our plans but ultimately the best life we could ever hope to have. Because His thoughts are higher, His ways are not our own and His plans are best.
Today, I choose to seek His will first, before I make any plans. I choose to invest my heart and hopes in God – the ultimate Planner. May you have a beautiful and exciting 2016, God willing – full of His perfect amount of the unexpected and the unplanned.
- -love, louriz