I was pondering what New Year’s resolutions I would make. It’s that time, right? But there is a tension between control and choice. We all want control: over ourselves, over how others treat us or react to us, over our circumstances. But in truth, we actually have very little control. But we do have choices.
We can choose to exercise and practice healthy eating in the hope of living a long life. But ultimately, it’s not under our control at all; no one can predict the day of their death. We all have heard stories of those who are seemingly healthy, but then are struck down in the prime of lie.
We may plan to get a better job after we obtain more schooling or another degree, and while it is likely to happen that way, we cannot guarantee that opportunities will come and doors will open. The economy in our chosen field may plummet, or we may suffer an incapacitating illness and be unable to work. And what about finding an ideal mate? One can practice all the recommended techniques and sign up for every on-line dating site with no success.
The book of James has some thoughts on this topic:
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. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. (James 4:13-16 ESV)
The warning here is against pride and arrogance. We are not masters of our own destiny, we are servants of Christ. We ought to make our plans after asking Jesus what His plans for us are.
But we can err in the other direction, too. I think this is a temptation for me, to just sit back and “let the Lord guide me” without stepping out in faith and boldness. God parted the Red Sea for Israel, but they had to step out and walk across it!
And Ecclesiastes 9:10 says “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might…” This sounds like participating in an aggressive, determined venture. Even the apostle Paul spoke in Romans 15 of his plans to go to Spain. We know that this plan was thwarted by the Lord and he never got there. But was Paul wrong to make his plans? I don’t think so.
We can choose to pursue relationships or careers that will glorify God. We can make plans and dream dreams within our God-given abilities, remembering that ultimately He alone is in control of the outcome.
I truly believe we should do everything we can to be healthy and pursue careers and opportunities that we are interested in. God has given us all abilities and interests that we can and should be using. When we are drawn to a certain course of action, we should follow it unless God puts a roadblock in our way. And if He does, we are also to submit humbly and accept it as part of His plan.
We must act boldly and yet surrender completely!
Saint Teresa of Lisieux said it perfectly : “I like best what God has chosen for me.”