13 Pay attention, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such-and-such a town. We will stay there a year, buying and selling, and making a profit.” 14 You don’t really know about tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for only a short while before it vanishes.
If James had been putting in the chapter breaks (rather than Stephen Langton, an archbishop of Canterbury, who did it around 1227 *), he might well have started a new chapter here. He spoke to merchants and other wealthy people in his day, but the principles apply to all of us. He took his teaching about the importance of humility, and specifically applied it to people who planned and acted as though they and their plans fully controlled what happened in their lives.
King Jesus, you didn’t promise your followers nothing but definite good results in this world. What you told me to count on was that you would be with me, no matter what came my way. Thank you! Amen.
* From https://www.gotquestions.org/divided-Bible-chapters-verses.html.
** Comment on James 4:13 in NIV, Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, eBook. Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
“How can you plan, yet hold those plans loosely enough for you and God to adjust to life’s reality?”
If I knew the answer to this question I would be writing some best sellers or traveling the world with my brilliant TED talks. But alas, I have yet to master the “plan ahead but hold those plans loosely” goal that seems so unattainable.
I’m currently in a state of unplanned life changes. A painful experience occurred that left me (and my family) reeling. A once trusted safe space for nine years of our lives no longer is that for us anymore, and we’ve been deeply hurt. I’ve got to be honest, I’ve questioned God a lot in these past few months. Not in God’s goodness or love for us, but why did I dedicate so much of my life to something that would end so painfully? I had planned accordingly to what I thought was God’s desire for my family's direction in life. And yet here we are.
Life is unpredictable and I’ve found that when I try to hold on tightly to those plans it’s like a tug of war battle and I’m usually left with rope burns and empty hands.
In these moments of loss and confusion, I’ve often thought about how Jesus responded to life’s unpredictability. I’m not sure he fully knew that a large crowd would continue to gather as he preached to the masses getting restless because there was nothing to eat but two fish and 5 loaves of bread. When he was tired and planning on finding rest, I’m not sure his immediate plans were to meet a Samaritan woman at the well. Yet, he lived in the moments and met each moment with an openness to what was happening. Instead of being rigid to “what needs to happen now”, Jesus carried grace and peace to each encounter of life, (not void of emotions mind you). He said, “Don't worry about tomorrow. It will take care of itself. You have enough to worry about today.” Matthew 6:34.
What Jesus leaves with us is the promise that we can count on him to be with us, no matter what comes our way. As painful and confusing as it may be, we are not alone, ever. Even when we feel like we are, ESPECIALLY when we feel like we are. We are never alone in the mess of our plans slipping away or being shifted in different directions. God desires to be near to us, especially in the questioning of uncertainty. For God is our certainty, now and forever. And that is something I AM planning on.
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