“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
An old saying declares, “If you want God to laugh, tell him your plans.” More than one person has decided this is true.
The background to the saying is the repeated experience of human plans being dashed to pieces. The message of such disappointment is, “Humans are not in control of their lives.” For some, this is a bitter taste of reality. We prefer to be, as the poet said, master of my fate, and captain of my soul.
We are neither.
Nor are we puppets at the end some strings from heaven. We do have freedom of movement. We have freedom of thought. But in the end, God does rule.
In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray, “Thy will be done.” Yet, he does not need our permission to do what he wants to do. He does not need this prayer. We do. It is a statement of faith. We believe that the will of God is good and gracious. We believe that what he wants for us, for our nation, and for our world is absolutely good and right.
We do not want to reject his plans. We do not seek to replace his plans with our own ideas. We know better—or we should know better—even if we don’t always act that way.
Our plans may not include failures or heartaches, or hospital stays. His, might. But that doesn’t make them bad.
Our knowledge is limited. To us, the future is unknown. But not to him. Jeremiah needed to know this. Ancient Israel needed to know this. And, so do we.
The city of Jerusalem had been smashed, the Temple destroyed, and the nation decimated. Many Israelites were taken as captives to the land now called Iraq. This message was for them.
“I know the plans I have for you,” the LORD tells them. He describes his plans with the words, “prosper,” and “not to harm”. To those who seemed hopeless, he promises a good future.
The later return of the captives, the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Temple, and the arrival of the Son of God as Jesus of Nazareth, testify to the truth of his words and the goodness of his plans.
As it was for them, so it is for us.
To some frightened followers, Jesus gave the assurance, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32)
We live our lives just one step short of disaster. Even on the best of days, one missed red light, one missed heartbeat, or one missed IED could make it the worst of days.
Our good ideas can turn out to be bad ideas. Our best efforts wasted. Our worst fears realized. It’s enough to make us discouraged, if not frightened.
Good thing we are not the masters of our fate! Good thing our plans do not determine the course of our lives! Good thing Someone at the top of the chain-of-command can override our plans!
Good thing our all-wise, all-knowing, and ever-loving God is in charge.
The life of the Christian is the life of the winner. Warrior-king David was right when he wrote,
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever (Psalm 23:6).
He knew that God’s plans are good plans. So, do we.
We pray: Faithful Lord, and loving Savior, we live our lives in the unknown. We make our plans, but they are only our guesses for what the future will bring and what will be best for us. We thank you that your plans for us give us hope and a future. May your will be done. Amen.
Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida Provided by WELS Ministry to the Military