If there’s one thing most of us share, it’s the desire to be in control. For some, it breeds the scheduling and planning that consumes our time, ensuring every hour is accounted for and the tasks of the day are all accomplished. Even the other folks, who appear to be lackadaisical and hyper-flexible with their clocks, have their own outlets for attempting to have control over their days. We invest our minds in methods that offer us a semblance of control over what comes our way each day, planning how we’d like our short term and long term goals to play out. Only over the past few years have I seriously considered the Proverbs 16:9 verse, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps,” and found it to be the sage truth that it is. Although it may seem difficult to see as we deal with the present, if we recount the past, it becomes ever-so-clear. The overwhelming realization that “there is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord” (Proverbs 21:30) is, perhaps, the most calming claim to behold.
As I read through Isaiah, this repeatedly prods me to reclaim it. Isaiah records prophecies throughout his book where the plans of God beckon us back to Who doesn’t hold a desire to be in control as we do, but He that simply and sovereignly is in control. “Let them show you and make known what the Lord Almighty has planned against Egypt” (19:12); “But you did not look to the One who made it, or have regard for the One who planned it long ago” (22:11); “The Lord Almighty planned it, to bring low the pride of all glory and to humble all who are renowned on the earth” (23:9); “O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done marvelous things, things planned long ago” (25:1). These verses concisely state that God has made His plans and not on a day to day basis. He is not waiting to see which winds will prevail, because He is their director. Nor is He awaiting the human race to perform a certain deed or act before moving forward in His planning, because He planned it all long ago.
To wrap our minds around this may prove challenging, because we so desperately grasp onto any type of control we think we may have. We set out to make, or break, plans that we’ve made. However, do we actually believe that we can alter the course set before us without the consent of our Creator? Surely, there are myriads of choices we make, every second of every day: which flavor of ice cream? which route to drive? which socks to wear? which partner to marry? which house to live in? which method of education for our children? which position to pursue in the workplace? which war to take on? which church to attend? Each one of these questions requires planning on our part, regardless of the severity in any given one. The one question that we may fail to consider as we burrow through our choices is: do we understand that the providence of God prevails?
The thing is, whether we are cognizant of the fact that the Lord determines our steps or not, He does. A truth is truth regardless of our realizing or affirming it. For instance, Christians realize and affirm their faith while atheists remain blinded and in denial. In the same manner, some Christians believe that their choices might supersede the plans of God; even though they’d never say those words, their way of thinking supports it. This cannot be so, primarily because Scripture denies it, but it also makes logical sense that our God who has ownership of all creation couldn’t be thwarted by the created. If we dare to dabble in this mentality, our view of ourselves needs to be brought low and a healthy dose of humility could be of assistance.
Now, how does this actually apply to us since we know that we’re not puppets on strings? How can God’s plans and purposes not be thwarted (Job 42:2 & Isaiah 14:27), but we can still feel as though we’re in the driver’s seat and independently choosing our own path? While we can only look back to see this proven to be so, God isn’t constrained by any single vantage point. If we’re in search of answers as to how He can orchestrate and ordain, while we remain free to choose, so to say, we need only to use this freedom and immerse ourselves in His Word to increase our understanding. This biblical ideal is spread thickly through the whole of Scripture (read Stuck in the middle and The totality of time ).