Does God have a specific plan for our lives? The prevailing culture within some wings of Christianity would lead us to shout an immediate and unequivocal yes! However, we need to be cautious because when we hear and interpret the words ‘specific plan’ we can easily underpin it with other adjectives such as personal, positive, and successful. Does God have a personal, positive, and successful plan for our lives? The answer to that question, based on the biblical narrative and born out of a couple of thousand years of Christian witness, would be an immediate and unequivocal “no!” I learned this the hard way, but this also led me to a surer faith and a greater understanding of my relationship with God. Let me explain.
My own personal journey had been one of relative success. An atheist friend of mine once described me as having a ‘charmed life’. I believed that God had a plan for me, and that plan was to prosper me; that I would be successful in media — music, writing, etc. It seemed to be borne out by my experience. I wrote books, designed computer games, produced albums, performed shows, and built Christian communities. I had a wonderful marriage and two incredible daughters. Life was just about perfect. Then, within the space of just a few years I lost everything; my marriage fell apart, I found myself jobless and churchless, and I lacked self-esteem. My kids got very sick and I got into financial difficulty. I farmed out my creative skills to the lowest bidder — and when I say low, I mean low — just to keep beans on the table. Such was my lack of self worth that at my lowest point, in the depths of despair, I nearly gave up. Where was God in this?
Early on in my difficulties I turned to my many Christian friends and they nearly all responded with the same mantra which was along the lines of, “God has got something better for you.” But things got worse. Some friends stuck around and stuck with the same message, “Don’t worry Gav, God has got something better for you,” however, as time went on and things got worse, many of my friends slowly disappeared. They fell off the radar, so to speak. It seemed that my situation did not fit into their nice, neat, and comfortable worldview. They liked being around ‘successful’ Gav, but they did not like being around ‘broken’ or ‘messed up’ Gav. To be fair, and I thank God for this, a few of my Christian friends stuck with me, and it should be no surprise that those that journeyed with me (and continue to do so) are those that are also broken or journeying through their own pain and suffering.
Do does God have a specific plan for my life? My circumstances had changed and I needed to modify my theology. I had to consider the possibility that God’s plan for my life in the here and now might not be personal, positive, or successful. You should have heard my complaints! Have I not served you God? Have I not given you my life? Me, me, me! Deep down I felt that somehow God owed me something. The pernicious individualism of the Western world had invaded my personal faith and understanding. The truth is that God owed and owes me nothing. God may well want the best for me and I know with all my heart that God loves me; but God owes me nothing. I had to let go of the possibility that my future might be personal, positive and successful. I had to let God be God. Against the tide of my evangelical upbringing and the bubble of doctrine I had lived in, I had to be okay with the fact that I might never be ‘used’ by God again, and that, despite what my fervent Christian friends had told me, had to be okay. In fact, once I did this and verbalised it, it felt like a burden had been lifted from me. I felt free. It was and is okay to simply ‘be’. There is nothing I can or need to do to win God’s approval. There may well not be a ‘specific plan’ for my life, and that is okay.
Of course, God has never really been just about individuals. We are so steeped in the language of personal salvation, personal faith, and me-centred theology — backed up by a myriad of books and conferences which all seem to be about us ‘bettering’ ourselves in some way — that we forget that though God touches the lives of the individual, he is concerned with community and also the world which he loves. Any outworking of God in our lives can only be considered in the wider context of community and the world. No, it is not all about me. It never was and it never will be.
So where does this leave me now? It leaves me in a place of security and contentment. If God blesses me in the ways I used to crave then that is up to God. However, I find myself no longer craving for success in the way I did. I do not need to write, produce, or build successful churches. I no longer need to achieve and make myself feel spiritual by suffixing the words ‘for God’ to sentences. I do not need to achieve for God. God does not need me. Sure, I will still be creative Gav, the beatboxing vicar, and I will still create art and music and literature, however it will be with a sense of joining in with God’s plan for the world — for its restoration, redemption, and renewal — and dare I say it, for the simple joy of doing it.
My future is not predestined. It has yet to be written and I may well end up going through further pain and suffering. If it does, it should no longer come as a surprise as, after all, I follow a suffering God. However, I know that God will never leave me or forsake me, and that has been proven — praise God! I do not know what the next chapter of my life will bring and it is both daunting and exciting — not least because I have deep down and fundamentally changed. It feels almost like I am making baby steps into a new world. I am figuring out what it means to worship, to engage with church, and to be involved in Christian ministry, all over again.
Today, if you are at your lowest ebb, if you wonder if God has a plan for your life, I hope and pray that you will be able to rest and simply ‘be’. Let God be God. He has got you. He will not let you go. You are his. Trust him and let him carry you.