God Does Not Have a Plan For Your Life

God doesn’t have a plan for your life. You may have heard that he does. And that it is wonderful. And that he loves you. The love part is true. The plan is bunk. 

What God has is a purpose, a cause, a vision, a kingdom. He has a dream of his broken world set right. He has a desire for his beloved children to embrace his love, worship him only, and find their identity and meaning in him. 

But he does not have a plan. 

Many an eager evangelical youth has been haunted by the idea of God’s plan for his life. The plan keeps him awake at night, worries his decisions, haunts his dreams. The plan continually questions, “Is this the right girl?” “Is this the right degree plan?” “Is this the right shirt?” 

I remember when I realized that God wasn’t planning my life. I was facing a crisis related to my college major. I was finishing my sophomore year. I had taken every prerequisite class I could justify. I had begged God for a sign about my calling. And still God had not revealed to me his plan for my career track. Disillusioned by God’s silence, I went to my pastor. His name was Bruce. Bruce did a very wise thing; he took me to shoot pool. 

Bruce said, “Ryan, what is God like?” 

“I dunno. He’s, like, God?"

“I think it’s helpful to think of him as a perfect, loving Father. Like the best version of a Father. The Father none of us ever had."

“I can go with that."

“So let me ask you about your earthly father. Do you have a good dad?"

“Yeah. Probably not perfect, but he loves me."

"Does your dad make your decisions?"

“Well, no. I guess not."

“Did your dad decide which college you would attend?"

“No."

“See, good fathers don’t control their kids. They empower them. I think your decision about a major might be a lot like this pool table. God might be saying, ‘Shoot for any ball on the table, Ryan. I don’t want to make all your decisions for you. Now all the balls on that other table over there, those are out of bounds. I don’t want you to aim for those. But any ball on this table is fair game. Pick one you like and declare your major."

Within the week, I had a degree plan. 

A plan has a schedule with progressive steps and deadlines. But God has never shown much interest in deadlines. With Abraham and Moses and many of his followers, God acts like he has all the time in the world. A plan is something to be followed and worked. But God has never shown much interest in inviting people to follow anything but his Son. A plan for your life may be helpful. A plan for your life could bring clarity and energy. A plan for your life may seem inviting and secure and warm. But don’t count on God writing it. 

God wants your heart, not your performance. 

Remember The Adjustment Bureau? The 2011 film about a man whose free will keeps messing up the divine plan for his life? Matt Damon plays David Norris, whose romantic involvement with Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt) surprises the heavenly plan-makers and leads to a frantic series of contingency plans to get Norris back on track. It was a fun movie, but it was bad theology. Heaven is not scrambling to work out another plan for your life right now because you bought the wrong car or voted for the wrong candidate. 

Adventures don’t follow schedules. Great stories don’t stick to the plan. This isn’t paint by numbers. It is real life. And life, when it is well-lived, is more mysterious, more challenging, more heartbreaking, and more beautiful than a plan.