I sure am. I love plans. I want to know what’s going to happen when. I want to have a 5-year-plan, and a 10-year-plan. It’s really bugging me now that my girls are older that I don’t know who they’re going to marry (or when. I totally believe they will). I feel like I should have more of a say in that.
We like knowing the future.
When I read Becky Avella’s book “And Then You Were Gone” about her miscarriages, she talked about it, too. One of the hardest things is that you think you’ve got your life planned out, and then you’re thrown this horrible curve ball. And we don’t know how to handle it.
My mom’s a career counsellor, and she meets with clients who need a change or who are very unhappy in their jobs. And the problem is that as much as they want to change, they feel like they can’t, because they don’t know what they want to do for the rest of their careers. And Mom always gives them the same answer.
“You don’t need to decide what you want to do with the rest of your life. You just have to decide what you want to do next.”
Don’t plan your whole life out; just do the next thing.
I think that’s brilliant (as a lot of what my mother says is brilliant). As much as we may want God to, I’ve rarely found that he reveals His whole purpose for us ahead of time. I’d love to have a road map for my life, but that’s not how God works. And if He doesn’t tell you what your whole life is supposed to look like, then why do we think we have to have it all figured out? I have known people to agonize over this–what do I want to do with my life?–so much that they fail to do anything. They’re waiting for that lightning bolt from heaven and it doesn’t come.
Even the apostle Paul didn’t know what his whole life would be like. He always just decided what he was going to do next, not what he was going to do years and years from now. In Acts 16 we read about how he planned to go to Asia, and all the doors kept closing, so he went to Europe instead (where his first convert was a woman, by the way). And in his letters, he always said, “I am planning on coming to see you,” but he never really knew. Even his future was veiled.
And that’s what life is like. Our future is veiled. So all we can ask is, “what am I supposed to do next?”
I’m in the middle of one of those periods, and I’ve found it very stressful. I have a ton of potential speaking engagements on my plate, and my agent is shopping around two different books for me, both of which have publishers’ interest. And I’ve got another ebook I’m trying to write, and a Second Edition of another book I have to finish. It’s overwhelming. And I’m always trying to map out how I’ll get everything done, which just makes me feel worse.
So I’ve tried doing something totally different. Instead of asking, “when am I going to do each of these things?”, I’ve started asking, “what am I going to do next?” That tends to solidify my priorities. And when you figure out what you’re going to do next, then usually the other things end up lining up in the right order, too.
If your kids are getting older and going to school, and you want to go back to work, but you can’t picture a career you want to do for the next thirty years, why not simply ask, “what do I want to do now?” You can always change later!
If your kids are about to move out, and you’re going to have a ton of time on your hands suddenly, don’t think, “what do I want to do until retirement?” Just think, “what do I want to do next?”
If you’re considering joining a ministry at church, but you don’t know if you can commit long-term, just ask, “what do I want to do now?”
If you have a ton on your to-do list, and you can’t manage it all, don’t try to decide when you’ll get it all done. Just ask, “what one task do I want to do next?” Then do that task.
If you’re in a transition time with a move, or with your kids, or even with your marriage, you don’t need to know how it all turns out. You just need to ask, “what do I want to do next?”
And that’s true with how we handle problems in marriage, too. We don’t have to have it all figured out. We don’t have to ask, “how much will I put up with?”, or “when is enough enough?”, or even “can I ever get through this depression and feeling like I’m not where I belong?” You just need to ask, “for today, God, what will you have me do?” And ask people to pray through that with you. And you’ll find that things start to fall into place.
You do not need to know the future.
God is in the present with you, right now, and wants to help you today. But He doesn’t help by revealing His whole plan, or we wouldn’t need to trust. He nudges us quietly in certain directions, and molds us as we make little decisions: “what do I want to do next?”
The next time you’re trying to figure out your life, stop. Take a deep breath. And reframe the question. What do I want to do next? Then do that next thing, and that will get you on the right path to what God ultimately has planned for you.