There’s an old saying that goes a little something like, “While we make plans, God laughs.” I’ve always wondered what exactly this saying is supposed to communicate about God. Does this mean that God doesn’t want us to make any plans and simply take things as they come, when they come? I don’t think that’s it, but it certainly seems like a natural conclusion that someone could reach. Many times, people will use it to laugh off a time when things just aren’t seeming to go right. Maybe it is an accusation levied against God, that He is similar to a mythological god of trickery or that He delights in our suffering. I certainly hope that’s not what’s intended! Maybe there is some other meaning to be found in these words.
I don’t know exactly where this phrase came from, but the closest biblical text it’s connected to is Proverbs 19:21: “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” It’s not exact, but it’s pretty close. This proverb comes in a chapter full of comparisons between wise and foolish things that people do, as is the case with many chapters in the book of Proverbs. I think, rather than trying to paint God as a cruel trickster god or dictate that people should take things as they come without plan, the proverb is trying to communicate an eternal truth for us to understand: What God wills, happens.
This text is saying that we should trust in God in all situations that we encounter, even if they don’t shake out exactly as we drew it up in our heads. In fact, even if everything goes to plan, we still know it is “the purpose of the Lord that stands.” Rather than a critique against making plans, it is an encouragement to make plans. The foolish man plans in fear or terror that, if the plan doesn’t work out exactly, everything will fall apart. The wise man plans for the future knowing that whatever happens is the work of God. When we make plans, we can be confident that God will continue to work through our success or failure to implement His will, and that everything we accomplish is for the purpose of being God’s instruments of His kingdom here on earth. That’s why we make plans!
When we go into church planning meetings, we go understanding that not everything will look just like any one of us—or even the church as a whole—has planned out. We go into these meetings understanding that we are planning out the ways that God can use us to bring about His purposes in our community.
Dear God, we know that things don’t always go according to plan, but Lord, we know that things always go the way You intend. Walk with us as we make plans for our future. Remind us that, ultimately, we are working to bring the works and words of Your kingdom to our church and community. Bless the time that we will spend planning, and open our hearts to see how You’d have us work. Through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
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