“God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.”
Don’t we love to hear this—it brings tremendous comfort and peace to us, and according to Jeremiah 29:11, it is true. God does love us and He does have a wonderful plan for our lives. Ephesians 1 and 2 give more information on that plan—read it out loud and put your own name in. You will begin to get the picture.
So why does it seem many times that our lives are in a constant turmoil and upheaval? Why do some wake up every morning with heaviness in their spirit? Why does the mate die, the child rebel, the job end, the friend betray—why? If God has a “wonderful” plan for my life, this doesn’t feel so wonderful. As a matter of fact, it doesn’t feel exactly loving either.
The problem with this thinking is not God; maybe it is because we have a faulty definition of God. Maybe our disappointment is that we feel God is not living up to our expectations.
I lived much of my adult Christian life with faulty definitions of God and these faulty definitions brought me untold emotional stress and conflict. In my forties, I began to get it. I am a late bloomer, but then so were many of my favorite Bible heroes, so I don’t feel so bad. Here is what I do get up to this point in my life:
God’s Definitions of the Plan
God does have a plan. His plan is huge—it encompasses thousands of years, past, present and future. It is the eternal, “above-the-line” plan that He has been working out since creation. You can begin to get a peek into this plan when you really study the Bible from beginning to end, and the astonishing thing is that His plan is a love story on a grand scale. The problem is that we don’t begin to comprehend the love story part until we have really surrendered our faulty definitions of Him and begun to swim out into the vastness of who He really is. He is enormous; there are layers and layers to Him that unfold and enfold at every new turn in our lives of faith. If we give up in defeat before we discover this, we will have missed so much of the abundant life He promised.
God’s Definitions of His Plan for Us
Within that huge plan, He has a plan for us, individually. That plan entails the conforming of us into His image, (“those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son” Rom. 8:29), so that we fit perfectly into the place of the tapestry in His vast eternal plan that was created especially for us. Notice I am not saying that He conforms us so that we will finally fit into the tapestry—we are already in the tapestry in Christ, but we are all elbows and feet; we are carrying a lot of excess baggage that won’t fit. A lot of baggage has to go—old belief systems, old identity messages, old insecurities, old strongholds and a host of old junk. Amazingly, He allows us room for failure—failure is built into the process. Now that’s good news. He never hid the failures of the men and women in the Bible, not even those “giants of the faith.” They weren’t really “giants” of the faith in reality—they were real men and women, flawed, insecure, dysfunctional, prone to the same sins as ours. Part of what gained them access into the hallowed hall of faith of Hebrews 11 was this unique qualifier—they believed God. No matter how terrible, boring, uneventful, failed, defeated or dysfunctional their personal lives were, they believed God. Every time they chose to continue to believe God, He put a deposit into their account of righteousness. Abraham believed God and it was “counted to him for righteousness.” God doesn’t record in the New Testament the many times Abraham failed in his personal life. He recorded the times he chose to believe.
My Definitions of the Plan
When someone tells me that God loves me and has a wonderful plan for my life, what do I envision that to look like in my reality? As an American Baby Boomer, my plan was to have a happy family, a wonderful husband who, like the Cleaver family, went to work every day smiling at his smiling wife, coming home happy and smiling as we all rushed out to greet him, sitting down to a nice meal in our cozy little home with the white picket fence. The introduction of TV into our lives in the 1950s truly defined what we perceived as the formula for happiness. As boomers, many of us experienced our own little versions of the American dream and it defined what we perceived to be the formula for true happiness, success and fulfillment. (I don’t say this was everyone’s reality–who can forget that in the midst of this serene image, our country was in a cold war and testing nuclear weapons.)
I went through my early childhood relatively happy. We lived that American dream. In the 1960s, I became a “teenager” (a word coined in the 1950s by the way), at the same time that Kennedy was killed and the Beatles invaded. America was changing radically. We became embroiled in a non-war taking our men into a warzone where they were not allowed to fight to win. The music changed—from 1940s swing and 1950s lovelorn teen angst, into something quite different—unrest, rebellion, anger, protests. The “Leave it to Beaver” genre morphed into shows about single parent families, smart mouthed teens and weak foolish Dad’s. It was an interesting time to be alive. The ground under our secure little feet was shifting and everything seemed off balance—like that feeling you have standing in the surf as the water recedes and the sand slips from under your feet leaving you a little unbalanced.
In retrospect, looking back on those years, I realize that it was during those years that my definition of God changed as I changed and as the culture changed. He was somewhere “up there.” But He was not really involved in my personal life. I was falling full on into the rebellion that had washed over our country like a tidal wave, but inside I still experienced times of guilt over my new lifestyle. Guilt was what I knew of God—just someone to make me feel guilty. I stopped going to Church when I was out from under my parents’ authority—no need to add more guilt. Still I longed for Him in the deep recesses of my heart. I just didn’t know Him and I certainly knew I could never live up to what He expected of me. My definitions of Him were becoming more skewed as I conformed to the new culture. Long years passed as I moved from experience to experience seeking to find the “happiness” or the American dream or something that was missing from my life. Then He found me. I wasn’t even looking for Him. It is scandalous, this mercy of God—scandalous that He desired my fellowship, that He still had a plan for me after all I had done to fail Him. It still takes my breath away.
God willing, in the coming weeks, I will attempt to sketch out some of our faulty definitions of God, using writings from those who have mentored me along my journey of faith.
I hope you come along for the ride—it may be interesting.