Because I have not planned well, I sometimes work in vain (or at least fail to do the most important things). I do many things, often many good things, but not the best things. And when I do, I not only let down whoever was depending on me, but I am left feeling unnecessarily anxious and guilty about all that I didn’t get done.
What if much of the strife and stress in your life was owing to your aversion to planning? What if many of your problems were fueled by a restless inability to stop, pray, prioritize, plan, and then run, serve, work, and love?
By no means does that dynamic explain all our angst and sorrow, but many of us suffer from constant strain and turmoil because we have refused God’s gift of planning. One of my greatest weaknesses in marriage, in my work, and in ministry (at least so far) has been my reluctance to plan—not that I refused to plan, but I have consistently failed to plan and communicate well. And failing to plan means I often fail to love.
My failures in this area often still feel, to me, like love, because I am working so hard. However, because I have not planned well, I sometimes work in vain (or at least fail to do the most important things). I do many things, often many good things, but not the best things. And when I do, I not only let down whoever was depending on me, but I am left feeling unnecessarily anxious and guilty about all that I didn’t get done.
Planning is vital to stewarding and investing our limited time and energy well, especially if we really want our lives to make much of God.
Beware of Planning
Now, none of us can truly or completely plan our lives. The wise man charges us, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring” (Proverbs 27:1). And James warns us,
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. (James 4:13–14)
If we think we can dictate tomorrow through good planning, we may be even more foolish than those who refuse to plan. No one makes plans for God, and no one knows all that he has planned. That we do not know or control what tomorrow brings, though, does not mean we should not give some serious thought to tomorrow. It means we make all our plans with open hands and heads bowed. And we pray that reality will far surpass our plans. How boring would it be if our lives always played out according to our own plans?
James continues, “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that’” (James 4:15). He could have said, “So, do not make plans for tomorrow,” but he didn’t. Instead, assuming we will make our good plans for tomorrow—to live, and do this or that—he said to remember that God may have different plans, better plans, than ours.
When God, in infinite wisdom and fathomless love, ruins our plans, he means for his people to welcome it with trust and even joy. So, we say, “If the Lord wills,” knowing our God will ultimately decide tomorrow. But then, how do we plan for tomorrow?
The More Subtle Laziness
Without some form of planning, we are inevitably unprepared to live and serve well—that is, to the glory of God. A lack of preparation is often just a subtle, more frenzied form of laziness. Some laziness lies on the couch all day, refusing to work at all. Other forms of laziness may keep busy, even frantic, but refuse to do the harder, earlier work of preparation.
Proverbs confronts the unprepared sluggard, who is a model for both forms of laziness:
Go to the ant, O sluggard;
consider her ways, and be wise.
Without having any chief,
officer, or ruler,
she prepares her bread in summer
and gathers her food in harvest.
How long will you lie there, O sluggard?
When will you arise from your sleep? (Proverbs 6:6–8)