Season: 8 Episode: 122
Have you ever made a 5-year plan and nothing turned out the way you thought it would? Shanda shares why she hates the question, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” She talks about how nothing she planned has ever worked out the way she thought but why that’s a good thing. You will walk away from this episode encouraged that no matter what happens tomorrow, God is in control and He still leads His people.
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Hey guys! Welcome back to Her Faith Inspires podcast where we take cultural issues and align them to biblical truth. I have a fun and encouraging episode for you today. I was sort of lying away one night thinking about a question I was asked recently and this thought came into my head as to how much has changed in the last two years, and especially the last year.
Before we do that, I want to remind you of the amazing classes offered through OCC. I have received several certificates through them and you can take the self-paced or premium courses with them. You will get 10% off when you use my code SHANDA10. So take advantage of the discount and the command to love God with all of your mind.
So a few months ago I was asked, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years.”
I’ve been asked this question before, especially on job interviews as a teacher. And to be honest, I’ve never liked the question. I’ve always dreaded it because I’m terrible at thinking ahead to 5 years. When I was younger, I would attempt to answer it to appease the interviewer. I would say something about furthering my education, even though I was happy to be done with college, or some kind of accomplishment to climb the ladder, even though I had no intentions on going beyond being a teacher in the classroom because admin work isn’t why I became a teacher.
But now that I’m older, I’ve stopped answering that question for several reasons.
First, nothing I ever plan really works out the way I want it to. And that’s not always a bad thing.
Second, so much changes in one year, I won’t even attempt to make a 5 year plan because I think it’s pointless.
Now, don’t get me wrong.
I’m a goal setter and my husband and I sit down at the beginning of each year and set goals together and I set goals for myself. But, I never set 5 year goals. I think that’s too far of a projection UNLESS you are just graduating from college, starting high school, newly married, etc. It makes sense to be in college and say in 5 years you see yourself with a degree and working in the field you majored in. Ok, I get that.
It makes sense to say in 5 years you see yourself settling down and having kids if you recently got engaged or something. But to ask me at my age where I see myself in 5 years … you’re not getting much out of me and I want to explain why.
So that brings me to my points today:
- What does the Bible say about making plans?
- Does God give signs to direct us?
- How do we know if our plans align to God’s will or not?
What does the Bible say about making plans?
Ok, so my theology has changed a lot over the years. What many of you don’t know is that my podcast editor, Albert Leon, used to have many conversations with me things I didn’t agree with. For example, before I learned how to properly study the Bible, (hermeneutics), I thought Jeremiah 29:11 applied to me. If you’re not familiar with that verse, it says, “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you. To give you a hope and a future.”
This is a great verse and one I even had stretched onto one of my boys’ baby blankets because by golly, God was going to give him plans to prosper her. Albert would tell me that verse was for those people at that time. Albert has the patience of Job because I would have told someone like me to go read the Bible and then come back to me once you stop with the Meology.
Albert is nicer than me. Be like Albert.
I also used to think that God appointed a spouse for you and you could only fall in love with that person (Ok, if you’re surprised and thinking, “Boy, Shanda, you’re really gullible and dumb .. just be encouraged that there’s hope for us all as I use the example of myself). I had a very shallow way of thinking about God and our own decision making.
That leads me to a question we all need to answer: if God leads us into every decision and directs every choice, what is the Bible for? Does God lay out how to make decisions in His word? That’s what Christians need to do as we evaluate how to make plans and what God’s word says about them.
Also know that I am not talking about bad things happening in our lives necessarily.
I recorded an episode a few weeks ago called You Reap What You Sow and I talked about when sin takes root in our lives we need to understand some things are a consequence of sin. I also talked about Did the Devil Make You Do It and how he is limited to what he can do to the believer.
I’m veering off of that with this episode. I’m talking about those times in life when things don’t go according to our 5 year plan. What happens when we set goals and life takes a turn? How do we pivot in such a way that shows our plans are in line with God’s word?
2 years ago today I never thought I would be living outside of California. In fact, I said my entire life that I will never move. I would live and die in my house in California because I was next to my entire family. My kids grew up with my nieces and nephews. But then COVID happened and things all around me began to change.
And for that reason, my plans changed too.
But when I started to entertain the thought of moving, which was very uncharacteristic of me, I bathed that thought in prayer for months and months and months. I did not act on it right away. I told my husband about it and sent my family a text. We had a few family meetings to see how we would all agree to find a state to be with each other. It was stressful and uncertain. But I kept asking God, “Is this your will, God? How do I know you want us to move?”
I read a book (well, part of it because it is huge) called Decision Making and the Will of God and it made a lot of sense. Because you have two different types of people: people with the traditional view which says that God directs every step you make and He tells you when to turn right, left,etc … and then you have those who believe the word of God guides our decision making.
I think I’m a third type of person not mentioned in this book … I’m a mix of the two. I believe there are some things you just don’t know to do and so you seek God in His word and you pray about it to see how it settles.
With that said, let’s see what His word says about plans.
Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all of you heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.”
There are a few things we can observe in this verse:
First: Don’t follow your heart, trust in the Lord with your heart. When we know God, we will trust Him and the fact that He knows what is best for us.
Second: Don’t lean on your own understanding. I think a lot of the times we make conclusions based on what we see and that’s never wise. We must take it to the Lord because His understanding comes from His eternal perspective, wisdom and knowing all things.
Finally: Acknowledge God in all things. I pray about everything even if it’s trivial to many. This verse tells us to acknowledge God in all our ways. That means in prayer, by searching the Word, getting wise council (emphases on wise).
So that’s kind of a formula for seeking God’s will and direction in our lives.
Proverbs 16:3 says, “Commit your ways to the Lord and He will establish your plans.” Again, notice here that no one is going rogue. No one is making their own plans without consulting the Lord. Committing your ways is the key phrase here. It’s an if/then terminology. If you commit your ways to the Lord, then He will establish your plans.
What does it meant to commit your ways to the Lord? In Hebrew, the word commit means to roll. It’s the idea of completely giving something over to the Lord. That doesn’t mean we remain paralyzed to inaction. It means we consult the Lord, see His word, and acknowledge Him in all our ways and offer our ways completely to the Lord.
Another thing we have to remember is that even though we may be surprised at how life pivots and changes, God is not. God is infinite and lives outside of time, meaning God already sees the beginning from the end. He knows how it will turn out. So this rolling onto the Lord is not for His benefit but for ours.
There are lots of other verses about God establishing our plans and we’ll get to some more in a bit, but for now, let’s move on to the next topic:
Does God give signs to direct us?
Sometimes when plans don’t go the way we think they should, we think maybe we’ve missed a sign from God. Like was there something I didn’t see? Some fleece I should have left for God to show me the direction He wanted me to take?
I used to think God gave us signs. And I realize how wrong and dangerous this is. A lot of people get the whole sign thing from Gideon in Judges. Remember when God called him to fight the armies of the midianites and Gideon threw the fleece out for God to show him a sign? One day the fleece was wet and the ground was dry, the other the fleece was dry and the ground was wet?
Once again, this comes from bad hermeneutics if we think the Bible is prescribing we look for signs to get God’s direction. Gideon didn’t have the entire OT and NT back then. He didn’t have the indwelling Holy Spirit back then. We do.
I once heard Voddie say that if Christians look for signs to hear God’s voice, we’re no different than those who follow a horoscope or palm readings. Many times, the signs people look for is how many times a word is repeated throughout the day, or if they see a word on a truck driving down the street. God doesn’t need to use those things because He already inspired the written word.
I’ve talked about this a lot recently, especially on Melissa Dougherty’s YouTube channel, but I used to rely on people to give me a word from the Lord. I used to want people to come up to me and tell me what God wanted me to do.
There were two reasons with that:
- It showed me that God saw me. I felt special and I felt singled out. Again, this is Meology and I was all about it in my early 20’s. The part you don’t know is that I was manipulated by someone who called themselves a pastor with this very tactic. That’s another episode for another day.
2. It was easier than having to read my own bible and trust that God, by the Holy Spirit would guide me into the truth just by having a day in and day out relationship with Him. It’s more wonderful to have your own relationship with God and while you sit at His feet, He comfort and guide you by His word. But when other people want to be the voice of God and you allow them to, it takes away from our reliance upon the Lord to lead us by His word.
So no, I don’t think we should seek signs for God’s direction. I think we should seek God’s word and He will lead us. Seeking signs is dangerous because we usually look for what confirms what we desire instead of what God desires.
And finally, how do we know if our plans align to God’s will or not?
Ok, short answer … they align to God’s word. But here’s the long answer. Jeremiah 29:11 may not apply to us, and it doesn’t, but Romans 8:28 does. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” We have that verse which is just as comforting to me as Jeremiah 29:11 because it says in all things .. not some things … but in all things God works it for good. The good is because through the hard and the surprising, through the twists and turns of life, God will make us into the image of the only one who is good … Jesus Christ. And that is a far better outcome.
Philippians 1:6 says, “Being confident of this very thing that He who began a good work in you will carry it to completion until the day of Jesus Christ.” Just because things don’t go according to plan doesn’t mean that God will not finish what He started in you. These things are promises that God will fulfill. They have nothing to do with you or I.
So here’s what I do:
I plan and I pray and I pray and I plan. I always ask that the Lord’s will be done over mine even though I have a pretty strong will. I remember that tomorrow is not promised to anyone so today is all I have even though my plans go beyond today.
I remember that God is sovereign over all and that He is in control and that I can put my plans into His hands and when I am not sure, I weigh it all and I line it up to His word. Sometimes I wait on Him before I act and sometimes I act after I’ve prayed, knowing that He will establish my plans as I trust Him to walk out in faith.
James is one of my favorite books in the Bible because James pulls no punches. He lays it straight and I like that. That’s how I work. That’s how my brain works. But he says this in 4:13-14, “Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”
Why do I bring this up in the topic of planning?
Because it shows that we must be mindful of the fact that God is in control. We aren’t promised tomorrow. That’s why plans must be bathed in prayer and when it doesn’t go our way, the confidence we have is that God is in control. He works things out for our good and we don’t always see that in the moment, but in time it will come together.
I want to wrap this up today by reiterating that things won’t always go as we plan … even if we’ve put it all of the work, made all the right decisions, consulted the wise people, and did everything we know to do.
I’ll be honest … I’m glad things haven’t gone my way in life. I married a man I never would have chosen if God hadn’t brought him into my path. I would have married a werido without a beard-o … more specifically a wolf in sheeps clothing.
If things would have went the way I planned, I would be living in the same place for the rest of my life and I would let comfort make me a prisoner within the walls of familiarly.
If things would have went the way I planned, I would have had girls, even though there’s not a lot of control over that. But God gave me all boys and I absolutely know it is the best because I can’t do all of the emotional drama.
What’s my point?
God knows. We trust Him. We pray. We allow the word of God to be the light to our feet and a lamp to our path. It guides us and we don’t look for signs. We rely on the word of God and the nudging of the Holy Spirit. Some decisions aren’t wrong or right. Some decisions are hard to make because they’re both good and wise. And maybe sometimes God will just bless the decision you make because He is a good God and He loves you.
I remember last year when the anxiety of moving across the country and leaving my home state of California was looming over me. We would sing that song at church, “Your goodness is running after me.” But I wasn’t satisfied singing words if I didn’t know if they were true or not.
So one morning I took it to the Lord in prayer and I said, “God, does your goodness run after me? Like, are you running after me or am I supposed to be waiting for you? Aren’t I supposed to run after you?”
And the Lord, in His faithfulness answered my question in my daily reading just a few minutes later. I didn’t see the timing in my reading plan but God did, obviously, and that night I read Psalm 23 and this is what it said:
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
You talk about intimacy with God.
How good is God to comfort me in the very hour I needed it but doing it the way God does best … by His word. Notice in the first few verses it says He leads me and He is with me. Then it says His goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life.
It doesn’t say He will only follow me out of the state into my new town. It says He will follow me all the days of my life … even when my plans don’t go according to my plans.
I talk a lot about loving God with all of your mind, and you should. We need to. I talk about sin and what it does to our lives, and it separates us from God and there are consequences that we will reap with unreported sin. But … there are times when life is just life but I can tell you that we serve a God who will always be God.
Love Him with all of your heart and take comfort in knowing that He is in control. When it seems like it’s not going according to plan, rest assured that He can work it out for your good.
I hope this episode encouraged you and more importantly, I hope it inspired you to lean on the word even more. I’ll catch you on the next one!