Making Plans, Living in God’s Will (James 4:15-17)
Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that." ¹⁶As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. ¹⁷So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. —James 4:15-17
At the beginning of the year my family has a planning routine. It starts with a personal retreat where I spend a morning with my journal and planner. I pray and reflect over the year that has finished and then pray and plan for the year ahead. I ask God what He might want to do in my life, I offer my personal goals and my professional goals to the Lord. I think about things in my family: parenting, character issues. My husband does the same on a different day. Then we meet together and discuss the results of our planning session. We pray together, and then as a family. We talk to our children about what goals and dreams they might have for the year ahead and we plan out our year, including family retreats for the next year. We pray, keeping our plans prayerfully surrendered, and we design our plans prayerfully, hoping they reflect what the Lord has for us.
We followed that same process this year, but we did it during our Christmas visit to Australia to visit my in-laws. All six of us sat in a coffee shop as our older kids joined in our time of reflection on 2017 and shared our dreams for the coming year. We were all eager to enjoy the rest of our time in Australia, return to the US for two short weeks, then home to Central America. 2018 was going to be a great year!
Two weeks later, everything changed. Our three-year-old son was admitted to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit in Australia, his health was rapidly deteriorating, and the doctors seemed puzzled as to what could be causing it. The doctors told us we could not travel for at least two months. We were suddenly stuck in a foreign country, thousands of miles away from home, with a seriously ill-child. These were not our plans for 2018.
The mystery of my son’s condition was revealed to be cancer. His symptoms were caused by a tumor so large in his skull that it was compressing his brain, causing his heart rate to drop to dangerously low levels. He was too unstable to leave. He needed to begin treatment immediately.
In a flash, every plan for 2018 went out the window. Every dream for our family and our future seemed to melt away. Suddenly we were living indefinitely at the Ronald McDonald House. My older children enrolled at the local elementary school, in a new country, 10,000 miles away from their home.
So what happened? Was God confused? Was I arrogant in my plans? No, I don’t think either of these things is true. God knew from before time began what He had in store for us for 2018. I have seen His kindness in so many ways these past few months. I am continually overwhelmed by His tender care for our family.
One of the goals I had at the beginning of the year was to learn to play a particular song on the piano. When we didn’t return home, I didn’t have access to a piano and, frankly, my motivation was gone. All my goals went to the back burner. Then, one day, the music therapist who came in to sing songs and play music with my boy was chatting with me afterwards. She offered me a full-size keyboard to take back to the Ronald McDonald House to practice on. It was an unsolicited offer. God reminded me of my plan for the year. He reminded me of His provision, His kindness, and His plans. I cried as I set the keyboard up at home that night. I will boast in nothing, but the Lord. I will trust His plans completely.
I don’t know what the future holds for us—some days the future can feel scary and uncertain. Yet, if we’re honest, are any of us guaranteed tomorrow? No, we are not. We live in a world broken with sin, illness, and death. I don’t know what the future holds for my son, my family, or me, but I do know that the Lord will be there upholding us and loving us. So I make plans for tomorrow, if the Lord wills.
Do you have plans that you know are not surrendered to the Lord and His will? What holds you back from placing those plans in God’s hands?
Is there anything or anyone in your life that you have not given to the Lord? How might you encourage the people in your life to trust in God’s will?
What plans might you make for tomorrow, if the Lord wills?