No more long-range plans

Faith & Inspiration
by Anthony Bradley
Posted on Wednesday, May 13, 2009, at 2:12 pm

Making detailed long-range plans is pretty pointless, my friends, as I have recently discovered. With great regularity I have come to see that I am always wrong about what I'll be doing "five years from now." I was sitting in a Manhattan restaurant with two friends of mine discussing how to cope with life not turning out as we planned.

Sitting in an eatery near Sixth Avenue and 34th Street, we were all trying to figure out what happened. When I was 17, I actually planned out my entire life. By now, I should have been governor of the state of Georgia. I don't even live in Georgia. What happened? One of my dining companions was laid off a couple of weeks ago after moving to a city to take the new job with amazing "opportunities." The other pea in this lamenting pod has a very well-paying job but is disillusioned because the work is painfully boring and draining.

We were wondering why no one told us that life's direction is not in our hands. Life is mysteriously painful, and over-planning the details of my life to avoid potential future discomfort is a useless pursuit. Truthfully, I'm sure someone along the way told me that God's ways are not my ways and that He has plans for my life that will take me places I may not expect at times that seem not to make sense. But no one told us to always expect that to happen.

It seems that the evangelical Christianity I've been swimming in the past few years has led my friends and me to believe that our lives work linearly toward greater comfort and ease: Go to college, meet the girl, get a great job, buy a house, have a kid, find a church with a good youth program, live happily ever after, and conclude by going to Heaven.

Several of my friends and I are dealing with the profound disappointment of realizing that the suburban church narrative is actually a lie. Some guys get married and their wives cheat on them within a couple of years, or they loose a job, or they get diagnosed with cancer before turning 30 years old, or they have a child born severely handicapped, and the like. I wish someone had given us the real news instead of the sugarcoated fairy-tale of a life absent of the consequences of the Fall and the active work of the devil.

In the final analysis, the only long-range plan my friends and I agreed upon that night was to refrain from ever making long-range plans. For many of us, trusting Jesus for one's salvation is the easy part. Trusting Jesus to lead you into what God has for you in the future is often more difficult than it appears.

In the uncertainty of what's next for my friends and me, these words from Jeremiah 29:11-13 provide a comforting echo:

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."

Anthony Bradley

Anthony is associate professor of religious studies at The King's College in New York and a research fellow at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty.

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