For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
What does it mean that God has a plan for each of our lives? Does that make us robots? Can we go against His plan?
The way I have come to understand these questions is to talk about the “plans” I have for my son. My son is ten. I don’t know exactly what he will do in his life, but I have some “plans” that I hope he will follow.
I plan for him to go to college. I plan for him to be able to live independently. I plan for him to have a job. (Now there is a difference between having hopes and having plans. I hope that he will get married, have children of his own, and live a long and healthy and happy life.) Now, will my “plans” for him come true? I don’t know. It will be ultimately his choice to go to college and get a job and he will have a lot of say in whether he will be able to live independently.
My role as a parent is to create an environment that will encourage these things. We will help him have every opportunity to go to college. We’ll monitor his studies, we’ll help him understand things he has a hard time grasping, and we’ll answer questions that he needs help finding answers for. We will model a good work ethic for him, so he will understand how to keep a job and the value of a hard day’s work. We’ll encourage him to get not only job skills but financial knowledge and domestic skills so that he can live independently. We’ll give him lots of chances. Ultimately, he will decide whether to follow this plan or follow a different plan. We don’t plan for him to be a criminal, or to be broke, or to not be able to hold a job. He could very well do these things, but this is not “our plan.”
God’s plans for us are similar. After all, He is our Father. We are His children. God’s plan is for us to be successful, not to fail. God’s plan is for us to glorify Him, and not dishonor Him or ourselves. He has given every person a path to success and a path to sainthood. No, not every path will lead to wealth or fame. Not every path will include great health. But every path can lead to salvation. Every path can lead to sainthood.
One of the prayer at the Orthodox Baptism service reads: “And make him/her (the child being baptized) a reasoning sheep of the holy flock of Your Christ, an honorable member of Your Church, a consecrated vessel, a child of Light, and an heir of Your Kingdom. So that, having lived according to Your commandments, and having kept the Seal unbroken, and preserved his/her garment unstained, he/she may receive the blessedness of the saints in Your Kingdom.”
There, God’s plan for all is revealed. He wants us to share in the faith as a sheep in His flock. He wants us live honorable lives. He wants us to become consecrated vessels—our bodies, our hearts, our minds, our souls. He wants us to live as children of Light. And ultimately He wants us to be heir of His Kingdom. This is His plan for us. Whether we choose to follow this plan is our choice. Regardless of our IQs, our level of education, or our earning potential, all of these things in His plan are on the table for each of us. Nowhere in “His plan” is for us to fail, or to embrace evil. Nowhere in His plan is a life with NO future and NO hope. Health concerns, especially when they occur at a young age, or plague someone for life, may seem to make the future bleak or not offer much hope. And that very well may be true on an intellectual level, a health level or a financial level. Everyone, at some point in life, will carry some “cross”, some difficulty. However, on a spiritual level, regardless of our crosses and challenges, and concerning our potential to enter in His Kingdom for eternity, well, there is a future and a hope for every one of us. This is His plan, His hope for each of us. Our path to this hope varies for each person. And the choice to follow this path remains just that, a choice.
Just as we hope our son will follow a path to college, work and financial independence that we have for him, God hopes that we, His children will follow His path to eternal life. He has given each of us the tools to make this happen. It is our daily choice to follow this path.
Lord, thank You for the blessings in my life (name some of them). Please be with me in the challenges I face. (name some of them) Help me to never lose hope in Your plan for my salvation. Rather, help me to take steps each day that will bring me closer to You and closer to salvation. Amen.
Choose God’s plan for welfare and not for evil, for an eternal future and an eternal hope!