Our Plans, God’s Plans

Last week’s ideal plan didn’t translate itself into reality. Instead, life happened. While on an errand, I met a man and we talked for two hours; a friend called to say her father is dying and I went to visit him; and our water main sprung a leak, drenching the basement.


I’m traveling west for a retreat, so last week was filled with dozens of tasks to get ready. I use a planning app that helps me prioritize action items for each day. And then (hopefully) I complete all the items. But  last week I failed utterly.

At the end of that “life-is-full-of-surprises” week, a well-known Christian blogger sent an email describing how “elite” entrepreneurs and executives accomplish their goals by eliminating the competing distractions. I thought, “Distraction-free life-management? Sign me up!

And then I paused: How does it leave room for God?

When Our Plans Go Awry

When Moses led Israel out of Egypt, he never expected the plagues, Passover, and parted Red Sea. When Elijah heard the voice of God on Mt. Sinai, he expected to hear it like Moses did, in the fire, wind, and earthquake. Instead he got a still, small voice.

Because God loves to surprise us. You can’t put him in a box. He won’t fit in your iPhone.

Gideon planned to attack the enemy with an army of 32,000, and God whittled it down to 300; Paul expected to evangelize Asia, and God directed him to Macedonia; and I planned to prepare for a retreat, and God interrupted me with a stranger.

By all means, make a plan; but expect God to disrupt it.

How Can We Know God’s Will for Each Day?

Consider this famous proverb: “Trust in the Lord, not your own ideas; acknowledge him in all your plans, and he will direct your paths” (Prov. 3:5–6 par). Meditating on this proverb produced my paraphrase above and the following simple pattern for getting God’s guidance:

After prayer, counsel, and wisdom: make a plan.
Then: give that plan to God.
Finally: let God direct your path.

Giving our agenda to God means that he will frequently guide us down paths our original maps never envisioned. We trust in God to direct us, not in our own ideas; we especially don’t want to trust our own plans.

Plans are just nice starting points to get us moving.

God’s most common guidance is done naturally: sometimes with disruptions, sometimes through circumstances, and often through surprises. The non-formulaic nature of his guidance means we will take risks, learn through trial and error, and that we remain alert to God’s gentle nudges.

Which is perfectly fine. It means we remain in a conversational relationship with God.

Which was his plan all along.



God wants us to hear his voice; he wants a conversational Latest March 22 2016relationship with us all. Please consider buying my new book, Hearing God in Conversation.

It’s written for both believers and non-believers. Give one to a friend.

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What do YOU think?

12 thoughts on “Our Plans, God’s Plans

  1. I’m one of those “let’s get things done” kind of guy. It’s what this world rewards me for. But my greater reward is from a good and loving Father, a kind King who can orchestrate my schedule – for His glory – much better than I can. Great post, Sam! Thanks for the kind reminder.

  2. Learning to have plans but hold them loosely seems to be an ongoing learning process for me, but so good. Jesus knows everything and… as long as I know that “I’m with Him” and rest in that… things go much better… or if they don’t… at least internally, I am way more at peace. I know He’s got this. Hey! So sorry about the water main leak!

  3. Reminds me of what I’ve been thinking of recently and this quote I recently heard from CS Lewis: “The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s ‘own’, or ‘real’ life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life – the life God is sending one day by day: what one calls one’s ‘real life’ is a phantom of one’s own imagination.” Thanks for the thoughts!

  4. Any plans we had were forever changed on Sept. 16 when my husband died suddenly and unexpectedly. He was a developer, planning on building an additional 60 apartments adjoining our existing apartments. He had worked on it for two years, had the financing set, surveys, engineers, revised plats and on and on. He was on his way to close on a piece of land we needed to complete the deal. He was healthy with no history of heart or any other disease. After filling his truck up with gas, he went into the convenience store, bought a cup of coffee, got back in his truck, and passed away. I worried about what to do with his development, as he was the brain and numbers part of our partnership. Then I realized that if I was supposed to proceed with this project, John would have passed away on his way HOME, AFTER closing on the land. I thought that was God talking to me. I canceled the land contract, and will not proceed. After reading your wonderful book, I’m working harder at hearing God. He has sent an angel to wrap me in great peace and strength, but I’d appreciate any prayers.

    • Cindy,

      Thank you for sharing with us. We are all grieved for your sake and for your loss.

      May God grant you more grace, a deeper understanding of him, more faith, a sense of his presence, and peace.

      I cannot imagine how difficult this must be for you. Our hearts go out to you.


      • Thank you, Jeff. God is with me, and yes, absolutely I’m leaning into Him. I am so surprised at how much peace and strength He has provided.