Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Is "God's wonderful plan" a trick?

As I mentioned yesterday, I've had some problems recently with a little booklet we use a ton here with Cru.  This booklet offers, as a starting point to a relationship with God, that:

"God loves you and has created you to know him personally.  He offers a wonderful plan for your life."

My problem is emotional and experiential.  See, I believe that this statement is true.  I believe that God does indeed love me dearly.  Just one glance at the cross forces me to concede that the pain of life cannot be because God does not care.  The cross proves his care for me; that he would choose to take upon himself all that I deserve in my brokenness and sin, and that he would do this freely, leads me to believe deeply that God's love for me is genuine and deep.

I also have a deeply held belief that this fiercely loving God has a plan for my life.  Now, this "plan" is very nuanced.  I believe God knows what is going to take place in my life.  Though I do not believe that God controls all things like a master puppeteer; in other words our decisions matter, and they have the potential to change the course of history.  So, in a manner unlike a puppeteer, but also in a way that upholds his control over the universe and all things therein, I believe God's plan unfolds.  His plan for my life is somehow wrapped up in his plan for the entirety of the cosmos.

This could diverge into a whole other theological set of thoughts, but I'd rather stay the course here…

If God loves me dearly, and he has a wonderful plan for my life, then why does it not seem so wonderful?

The short answer is… I don't know.  That's as honest as I can possibly be.  Why tsunamis and tornadoes and earthquakes?  Why tonight will there be Christians, married for 40 years, celebrating their anniversary by staring vaguely at one another with nothing to say?  Why will there be college girls this very weekend, just trying to enjoy life as they've been told, viciously date raped by overly aggressive teenage boys?  Why will children this very night be orphaned due to tragic accidents involving their mommys and daddys?  Why were grain working civilians in Syria simply collateral damage from the US-led bombings there?  Why?  Why?  Why?

How can this be God's wonderful plan?  There are many answers.  And most are trite.  Few, if any, really do business with the emotional realities these questions surface.

Are we just fooling people, and ourselves, when we declare that God's loves us all and offers a wonderful plan for their lives?

Well, honestly, perhaps so.  Most of the answer to that question is probably only understood in the midst of specific conversations and relationships.  For example, what do I mean when I say God offers a wonderful plan?  And what am I understood to be meaning?  Does the manner in which I'm presenting God's wonderful plan leave room for tragedy and heartbreak and shattered dreams and pain?  If not, then we should absolutely be rethinking the way we offer God's love and plan.

Would you be willing to commit, with me, to promising that when we present God's love and wonderful plan to others, we are not colluding with the stories in our hearer's heads--those fake stories of peace and tranquility and all things right directly following a conversion?  Could we promise to only present Christ Jesus honestly and authentically?

And I think, should we all commit to that, we would see an uptick in disciples while simultaneously seeing a downturn in the number of "decisions" we see for Christ.  Let's raise disciples.

I think in the future I'd like to chat more about what exactly God's wonderful plan is, then, but that will have to wait for another day.  Feel free to begin the conversation below.


CJ said...

My problem with the whole "God has a wonderful plan for you" idea is that it treats everyone like Moses, David, Paul or Mary when that's not the case. People love to quote Jeremiah 29:11 but it was written to Israel as a community and not individuals. In the verses leading up to v11, God is basically telling everyone to live their lives but be faithful to him in doing so. The entire sweep of Scripture shows us that if God wants you to do something, he will let you know what that is. Otherwise, be faithful to him and him alone! We would do a whole lot better if we connected Jeremiah 29:11 to Matthew 16:18 than any other verse.

Joshua Montgomery said...

I often wrestle with this idea too...but have come back to scripture wondering if we don't emphasize the "wonderful plan for your life" enough. I agree about Jeremiah 29, it's misused. Not really sure how much that played into the development of the presentation of the Gospel we are discussing, but it is used often enough in Christian dialogue to warrant a correction. Of course your understanding of this verse will hinge on some understanding of the relationship of the OT people to the NT people of God if there is any difference. Even if they are not the same group, the promise to them in some way sheds light on the promises to us. Still, what is true of the corporate is in some ways true of the individual, and the other way around. It would be very hard to say that this is true of the corporate if those individuals within the corporate body don't also get it.

I look at passages like Ephesians 1:15-23, 2:4-10 (created in Christ Jesus for good works...that we should walk in them.), 2:19-22, 3:14-21, Phil3:20-21, 4:7, Col 1:21-23, 2:1-5, Hebrews 12:11. Honestly we could go on and on. So why don't we shout all the louder that God does have a wonderful plan for your life!

I don' think any of these thoughts are silver bullets, but maybe some of the nuance I have thought through as I present God's wonderful plan and dwell on it in my life.

1. We don't always feel the truth of these scriptural promises.
2. these realities can't be removed by starvation, rape, ebola, etc... Maybe that is what makes the wonderfulness of God's plan in this world so wonderful. He has given us a status, an inheritance, blessings which outlast, outshine, and are more fundamental than the brokenness - no matter how bad it may be- that we find all around us and in our own life.
3. He promises to remove all that brokenness one day. he is beginning to undo all that brokenness now in us and through his church as a foretaste of what he will finally do.
4.I need to be more pastoral in sharing this in a real life situation (as if all of us in this conversation don't wrestle with this daily). Though, how trite does Peter's little quib to the Churches of Asia Minor sound "Though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials..." Grieved. ha!
5. Why would God deem suffering and grief necessary in his wonderful plan for my life? I think I should focus on that and it would bring much perspective to what I grieve over.
6. I often let material and emotional things creep into the place of God as my true treasure. Of what I am hoping to get out of this life with Jesus.

I don't have this together. I wonder about this as much as the next guy, but these parameters help keep me moving forward in basing my life on God's promises and not basing my life on brokenness. One thing or another is going to shape your view of world. all of them (brokenness or God's promises) are going to seem not to accurately reflect reality sometime. But "what has the better chance of delivering ultimately" is what I often come back to.