Sometimes I think being a Christian makes life more complicated. This sounds like a ridiculous statement. To be a Christian is to believe that when Jesus died on the Cross He gave us hope and a future for eternity. And in the short term, we have a relationship with a God who says,
‘I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’ (Jeremiah 29:11).
But while this should be liberating often I am paralysed by the belief that God has a plan for fear that I’m going to get it wrong and spiral onto the scrap heap. Sometimes I think I spend so long trying to decipher God’s ‘one and only plan’ that I forget to live. And when life gets tough the temptation is to think that this is not part of the plan therefore I’ve got it wrong and must strive harder, work longer hours, be more regimented in going to Church and analyse the decisions I have made as if it would be possible to pinpoint the exact moment I fell, then rewind and do something different. But it isn’t possible to rewind. Instead we should look ahead rather than back, fix our eyes on Jesus and know that God can work the bad, even if self inflicted, for good, and has covered it in His grace. And, that ‘one and only plan’ probably doesn’t exist anyway, or if it did, it went out the window long ago.
Don’t hear me wrong here, I believe we were made for a purpose
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10
And that God has a specific calling on each individual’s life, he has set you a path;
…And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith…. Hebrews 12:1b-2a
that only you, with your unique combination of gifts and character can fulfil this completely and therefore we should be running in that path that has been marked out for us. But the path is perhaps less about what we do and more about ‘fixing our eyes on Jesus’ and once we do that, whatever we’re doing, everything else will fall into place. If we truly have our eyes concentrated on Jesus it is ultimately not possible for things to go wrong. Therefore wherever we find ourselves we can be confident that that is where God wants us for the moment and in that place we should work for His glory.
And even if it all goes pear-shaped, God’s plan will still prevail, it may look different but our God is the great recycler. He uses all the experiences, even those that are self inflicted, and works them for His purposes. Have I made some poor decisions in my life? Definitely. But
‘God can work all things for the good of those who love Him, whom He has called according to His purpose’ (Romans 8:28).
This is like the potter described in Jeremiah who when the pot seems to go wrong, shapes it into a different pot;
“But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.” Jeremiah 18:4
God can turn our mistakes into something beautiful. We just have to turn back and be willing to be moulded by Him. The process may be painful; in order to remould a pot you have to undo what has been done wrong, often crushing or taking off the parts that don’t fit. Other analogies for this used in the Bible are the pruning of branches, or the refining of gold in a fiery furnace but ultimately a stunning pot, an eye-catching flower or glittering gold is produced. It is worth enduring the pain. Like Jacob who wrestles with God for His blessing (Genesis 32:22-32) we may always walk with a limp, a reminder of our struggle with God. But the struggle is worth it because as other things are stripped away we find that He is the one thing that matters.
As well as trusting that the times we get it wrong are redeemable, we also have to give ourselves some grace. Our past is hidden in Christ; we are forgiven, redeemed and free. We must not be held back by yesterday. In order to step into all God has for us we must let go, knowing that all that has gone before is covered by God’s grace and re-focus our eyes on Jesus. Paul writes,
‘Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it [resurrection from the dead]. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.’ Philippians 3:13-14
We will fall short, and there will be many a time when we find ourselves slipping in the lane, chasing after wealth or boys or slipping into legalism and ‘tick box religion’, but we need to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and know that all the past is covered by God’s awesome grace. Satan comes to steal, kill and destroy and he exists to stop you running for God, he will tell you that you are not worthy, that the past marks the present and the future, and that therefore the one and only plan is off the table; you are useless in God’s Kingdom. This is a lie.
The truth is that
‘[God’s] grace is sufficient for me. [His] power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Corinthians 12:9).
There is nothing; no situation, no action and no person, that is too big, too messy, or too far gone for God to redeem. His grace is sufficient. And not only does He redeem messy situations but He uses them for His glory. Where we find ourselves broken, God can mend us. When all else is stripped away, He comes and clothes us. We just need to live. Don’t worry so much about the plan. Give yourself some grace. Fix your eyes on Jesus. And go for it!