The Best Laid Plans

My best friend in grade school was a red-haired kid named Erik. He happened to live just one street over from me, so we played together all the time. We got along well because we both had vivid imaginations with ambitions to match.

Erik and I were always planning something big. Once we attempted to build a rocket so we could explore the moon. I don’t mean pretending; we really intended to fly this thing to the moon. We gave up only after one of the rocket’s walls collapsed (our engineering and carpentry skills did not measure up to our ambitions). On another occasion, our plan was to put a converted lawnmower engine on Erik’s wooden go-cart and drive it to Alaska. We even packed sandwiches. Sadly, what doubtless would have been an epic adventure was foiled when Erik’s mom wouldn’t let us go past the end of the street.

I suppose most of the plans devised by 7-year-old boys never come to fruition. And I suppose that’s for the best. At any rate, 7-year-olds never appear to be much bothered by it; they just plan something else.

But it seems that as we get older, it can be far more difficult to cope with the fact that things often don’t turn out the way we thought they would.

In spite of Scripture’s warnings that the future is uncertain, and in spite of our own experiences confirming it, we often stake a great deal on the assumption that tomorrow (or even the rest of today) will be exactly as we expect. True, we can’t really function without making plans; but we easily forget that our plans are not sovereign. And we get upset when things happen that throw those plans off. Meanwhile, God says, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth” (Proverbs 27:1). The fact that we can’t predict the future with certainty ought to humble us. It certainly should make us less surprised when things don’t go quite the way we intended.

The greatest danger involved in planning for the future is the tendency to forget God. “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow, we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.’ Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that’” (James 4:13-15). It is God who holds the future in His hands. For us to make assumptions about it without considering Him is arrogance (verse 16).

And to plan for our future on earth, but not for eternity, is foolishness of the worst kind. Jesus told a parable about a man who embodied this principle. His work was productive, and he made adequate plans for his financial security. Then he sat back and rested on his accomplishments, supremely confident that the world was at his command. Yet that night his soul was required of him, and he was brought face to face with the one thing he hadn't planned for: the judgment of God. Jesus concluded, “So is the man who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:21).

The great scientist Neils Bohr wryly commented, “Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.” We must be ever mindful of that. Tomorrow is never guaranteed. And even if it comes, it may turn out to be nothing like we expect. Our best defense against the future’s uncertainty is to remember our Creator and acknowledge His greatness. We are wise to plan for our future on earth; we are wiser still to live each day preparing for a future in heaven.