We read in the Word, “And He said to His disciples, ‘On this account I say to you, be not anxious for your soul, what you shall eat, nor for the boy, what you shall put on. The soul is more than food, and the body than clothing. But rather seek ye the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you. Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:2, 23, 31, 32
“Anyone who does not view the matter from anywhere beyond the sense of the letter may think that all concern for the morrow is to be avoided, which being so, people should then await their requirements every day from heaven. But a person who views it from a position deeper than the literal meaning, that is, who views it from the internal sense, may recognize what concern for the morrow is used to mean - not concern to obtain food and clothing for oneself, and also resources for the future; for it is not contrary to order to make provision for oneself and one's dependents. But people are concerned about the morrow when they are not content with their lot, do not trust in God but in themselves, and have solely worldly and earthly things in view, not heavenly ones.” Arcana Celestia n.8478
Robert Burns wrote (in modernized wording) that “The best laid schemes of mice and men often go astray, and leave us with nothing but grief and pain, instead of the promised joy.” And then there is Murphy’s Law: “If it can go wrong it will.” You have your favorite. The point is, why plan at all? It seems that any goal you have–joy, happiness, success–if achieved at all will be by luck or chance more than by your meager power or control.
One of my favorite passages in the Word, quoted in part above, says, “people in the stream of providence are being carried along constantly towards happier things, whatever appearance the means may present.” That is faint assurance, to be sure. It means that when things are at their worst, the Lord is still our omnipotent God, and His plans for us (as far away as they seem at the time) are still possible. Sometimes it is hard to be thankful to Him for that.
So how do we get into the stream? It is put simply in the same passage: “Those in the stream of providence are people who trust in the Divine and ascribe everything to Him.” Perhaps you were expecting something else? The way to avoid cynicism and desperation about planning is to trust in the Divine by, in part, ascribing EVERYTHING to Him.
Does this mean that we don’t have to think ahead and plan for the future; that, if we trust in the Lord, He will carry us along to a happy end? No. This passage also says: “Care for the morrow” (in Luke 12) is used to mean, not concern to obtain food and clothing for oneself, and also resources for the future; for it is not contrary to order to make provision for oneself and one's dependents. But people are concerned about the morrow when they are not content with their lot, do not trust in God but in themselves, and have solely worldly and earthly things in view, not heavenly ones. We are to become conscious of a dependence upon the Lord even as we provide for the future.
Being human brings with it this delightful opportunity: to trust in the Divine AND plan for our future from a spiritual point of view, not a merely temporal, materialistic view. Being merely materialistic is acting from less than our full potential. Being spiritual is acting from a desire to be useful, which has unlimited potential for growth and delight.
So it is important that we distinguish between controlling the planning and controlling the result. To be in control of the planning is provident. To seek to control the result is futile. To participate in the plan the Lord has for us, we have to take the time and make the effort to reflect on our purposes in life, our goals, and our dreams. We think ahead, save, collect ideas, and arrange the details as much as we can. If we trust in the Lord in the process, we are promised, happy results will follow. Perhaps not in time or space; and perhaps there will be tragedy and trial along the way, but His goal for us will be reached. And, importantly, we will be happy with any result. We will be content during the process, and will not get upset when things go wrong (the rest of this passage says all this very beautifully!).
On the other hand, our desire to control the future leads to worry, anguish, anger and eventually a denial of God. This passage from the Word puts it this way: “These people are ruled completely by anxiety over the future, and by the desire to possess all things and exercise control over all other people.” Again, if we plan to be useful, rather than plan a certain outcome, our attention will be on the use, not on controlling people and circumstances. You can easily imagine the huge difference!
Let us help each other plan for the future of our church, from the perspective of use and eternity, not expecting any results, and not just this day, week, year, decade or even our time on earth! The Word promises happiness as we do this planning, and then act in service to the Lord!
Precursor July 2007