Well its May. And in the student world that means three things: Dissertations, deadlines and exams! Many of the amazing people I work with are currently neck deep in stress and anxiety, and spending long hours sat in isolated desks, silently reading and writing out the shape of their future. So I thought I’d quickly write about something I believe is deeply important to communicate during this time when who, where and what we want to be feels as if it is hanging in the balance… What is God’s plan for us?
“For I Know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future.”
This has to be one of the most well known and memorable versus in the bible. It also has to be one of the most misunderstood and misapplied. And its definitely one of the ones most often quoted when people are concerned about their future - like when they’re taking exams or feeling the strain of end of year deadlines. Whilst on the one hand, hearing that God has a plan for us can be a source of comfort, on the other it can sometimes feel intimidating and full of pressure. Particularly when the fear of failure makes us think we might somehow screw up God’s plans for us.
But here’s the good news - you can relax! God’s plan is not in jeopardy!
This verse isn’t God speaking specifically to us. Its Him speaking to the entire nation of Israel 2500 years ago. He isn’t speaking about a specific plan for specific individuals, but a master plan for the whole Israelite community together. And that plan isn’t anything new… it is the same it has always been: that His people would, through the way that they lived and worshipped together, demonstrate to the world who God was and what He is about.
This verse was originally a message of comfort to a particular group, at a particular time, who had fallen into the hands of their enemies as a result of their own rejection of God, and God was reassuring them he still loved them!
The truth is, God’s plan is bigger than individuals and their choices and their uni results. God’s plan is for his whole church - made up of millions of individuals, living out their days, making their choices, passing or failing life’s challenges - and its calling them collectively to something bigger than themselves: to build His Kingdom and save the world! And there’s nothing you can do to wreck or ruin that plan yourself.
So we can be less worried about “Should I do this post-graduate course? Should I apply for this job? Should I move to this place? What if I fail this exam or get a low grade?” and more worried about “Does my life reflect God’s Kingdom, God’s love and God’s way of living.” Part of that way of living does involve inviting God to speak to you about those other things, and praying for your circumstances - and I believe he is interested in our unique situations and pressures. But if he says nothing, or you don’t get the results you want, it doesn’t mean he is disinterested, or that you are damaged goods.
Come what may in this season of stress God is still God, you are still you, the Kingdom is still coming, you can still be a part of it and you’re still invited to have wild crazy adventures with Him as you are.
There is real hope and future in that!
Photo Credit: Lacie Slezak