A big question mothers and everyone else face: are the conditions of my life ultimately a function of my ability?
If I am single is it because I haven’t been attractive enough? Because I haven’t joined the right social circle or used the right app?
If I am childless is it because I haven’t been healthy enough, done enough research or met the right doctor?
If my children are struggling in their behavior or character is it because I haven’t properly trained them?
Is the future of my children dependent upon my ability to get it right?
Another way to ask this is: is a better life, the good life, just outside my grasp?
Proverbs 19:21 gives us insight into this question.
“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.”
Many are the plans in our minds.
Some are wise and well informed, some are short-sighted and naive. Some are executed with diligence and skill, others fail in the face of difficulty and hardship. Some plans are directed at self-interest, others at love. Our plans are many and diverse, but they all have one thing in common: they aren’t the last word.
It is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.
There is a plan behind all of our plans. In theological terms, we call that plan Providence. For centuries children have been taught the doctrine of Providence through these words from the Heidelberg Catechism:
Q. What do you understand by the providence of God?
A. The almighty and ever present power by which God upholds heaven and earth and all creatures, and so rules them that leaves and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and unfruitful years, food and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, and everything else, come to us not by chance but from God’s sustaining hand.
In the words of Charles Spurgeon, divine Providence means that “every particle of dust that dances in the sunbeam does not move an atom more or less than God wishes.”
At the center of the Scriptural revelation of God is the supremacy of God’s providential purposes. The book of Isaiah is inflamed with this reality:
Only I can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish.
The LORD of Heaven’s Armies has spoken— who can change his plans? When his hand is raised, who can stop him?”
“From eternity to eternity I am God. No one can snatch anyone out of my hand. No one can undo what I have done.”
Who has done such mighty deeds, summoning each new generation from the beginning of time? It is I, the LORD, the First and the Last. I alone am he.
God is always in control, He always has a plan, and His plans are always good.
Though they are shrouded in mystery, we know three things with certainty about God’s plans: they are directed at God’s glory, they are directed towards the good of those who love Him, and they are directed towards completion.
How does it affect us to receive this revelation of God’s Providence in our world?
Let’s look again at the Heidelberg Catechism.
Q. How does the knowledge of God’s creation and providence help us?
A. We can be patient when things go against us, thankful when things go well, and for the future we can have good confidence in our faithful God and Father that nothing will separate us from God’s love. All creatures are so completely in God’s hand that without the divine will they can neither move nor be moved.
When we see and trust the invisible hands of Providence we are free to parent and do everything we do in…
- Faith, not Fear.
- Gratitude, not Regret.
- Work, not Paralysis.
- Love, not Manipulation.
- Rest, not Worry.
Knowing God has a plan allows us to throw ourselves into the work of life. Like trapeze artists who rise higher and dare more boldly in the knowledge of the strong safety net below them.
Sometimes this revelation of God seems almost impossible to believe. Sometimes life is so dark we just can’t imagine a good plan.
There is a mother who can help us in those moments.
Imagine for a moment a mother whose first child has been arrested. He is accused of crimes he did not commit. She desperately seeks information about his whereabouts and finds him brutally beaten, nearly beyond recognition. She hears word that a show trial has gone terribly wrong and her child has been sentenced to death. She tries to keep up with his location and arrives at the scene of his execution. He is surrounded by heavily armed soldiers who mercilessly carry out the sentence. She can do nothing but watch and listen. Utterly powerless to change a thing. She hears him breathe his last breath. He is gone forever.
Can you imagine a darker moment? Where is God’s mighty hand now? It wasn’t there to help.
Mary failed to protect her child, Jesus. It was not in her power to stop the world from hurting him.
In that moment, faith is nearly impossible. But that moment was only one moment, wasn’t it? It was just one stroke of the brush, one page in the story. In the days ahead a brilliant light would burst into Mary’s darkness, and once again the reality of God’s good plans are apparent.
Friends, you aren’t good enough. You will fail. Your strength will run out. But that’s not the point. There’s another plan behind yours. It will be executed by a power that can never be exhausted. Some day soon, He will carry the plan to completion and we will see the glorious purposes wrapped up in His plans.
Tom Brown is the planting pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Wichita. Tom and his wife, Mandy, have worked together in ministry for 18 years and have four children. More about Pastor Tom Brown