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If you attended a Christian youth group as a teenager you most likely heard a number of talks about God’s calling and purposes for your life. Growing up, I heard the phrase “God has good plans for you” more than I can count. It sounds pretty logical – after all, God is good. And he is sovereign. And he love us! So clearly, the future he is creating for us will be good.
“God has good plans for you” is a pretty vague statement. Which, in my opinion, is problematic.
You are the God who sees me.Genesis 16:13
The above quote is the Bible verse for the year for 2023. When I pondered the verse, I realised that I struggle to say those words with conviction. If I was being honest, I sometimes felt like God maybe had overlooked me.
I used to have such big dreams. To travel, to have a job that will help save the environment, to fight against poverty, to run my own business, to become an author, to move from continent to continent. But nothing has come of those things.
Is this it?
Don’t get me wrong – I am so grateful for the life I have, but I kind of expected more. I thought I would have a bigger impact. To do things that are a bit more out of the ordinary.
When thinking this through I wondered “where do these expectations come from?” Is this just the hubris of a young person? I guess, in part, yes.
But also – all those years of being told that God had these big, amazing plans for me and that my dreams are God-given, an indication of a calling — left me with a belief that I would change the world somehow.
To be honest, I am quite happy not to move from continent to continent. I am okay with living a very ordinary but joyful life. But I do still sometimes feel sad about not using my degrees and maybe a bit disappointed about what feels like lost potential.
What is a good plan?
On the whole I don’t really have much to complain about though. However, there are many people who do.
When we were 14, 15, 16 years old and heard about this good plan of God, I think most of us pictured adventures, falling in love, being happily married and having successful careers. We couldn’t wait for the future to begin.
But reality often turned out quite different. I have friends who are in their 30s and single but desperately wish to marry and have children. I know people who struggle with infertility, who suffer with chronic illnesses or have mental health problems. Careers didn’t go the way people had hoped. Broken marriages. Life-altering diagnoses. Etc.
So, is that the good plan of God we were told about?
The best is yet to come
Well, yes and no. Jesus came to this earth to show us a new way to be human. To live a life marked out by love. God‘s plan for our lives is to grow in love.
To learn to love our spouses and families, our friends, our enemies, ourselves and God.
Often, the people who use the phrase “God has a good plan” also love to say “The best is yet to come.” Those statements are false and unhelpful if we relate them to this life, to our earthly successes and ideals.
This life isn’t all there is. We were indeed made for more. Eternity awaits us. Yes, God has tasks and callings for us in the here and now. But his plans do not only encompass the next 50 – 70 years of my life, but a much longer time-span.
Hope for good plans
So, there are two points I am trying to make:
1. Let’s not use empty catchphrases to encourage people. Telling teenagers that if they follow Jesus their futures will be nothing but cool adventures with God is a false gospel.
2. Let us start putting our hope in the things God does actually promise. Not a house with a pool. But his presence, his comfort through all of life’s trials. And an eternity with him.
This is Day 30 of my 100 Day Project. You can learn more about my 100 day project by reading this post. If you want to do your own 100 day Project, I would recommend checking out the 100 Day Project website.