Oh Sovereign Lord, you alone know what the future holds. You hold my next breath in the palm of your hands. Let this knowledge free me from the burden of trying to be in control of my life. Let me rest in the boat as you steer its course, knowing that wherever you lead me, you are with me, from the rough waters of conflict, sickness, and brokenness to the quiet streams of peace and serenity, and everywhere in between. Help me to live in the hope of your good plans for my life. Amen.
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. (James 4:13-17 ESV)
At the close of last year, I shared a post introducing my 2016 “wisdom series” in which I talked about how becoming a mother of three (first foster, then adoptive) changed and challenged me and drove me to begin a deeper, more intentional pursuit of godly wisdom. I invited you to join me in that pursuit, writing, “Starting in January, on Monday of each week, I’ll share a verse or passage of scripture that deals specifically with gaining wisdom, along with a short reflection and application of the passage for daily life.”
It would have been wise for me to add, “if the Lord wills.”
At the close of 2015, when I was making my plans and setting my goals for 2016, I could not have predicted that the Lord would lead Karl and me to become foster parents to a fourth child—a newborn preemie. If you had asked me whether we wanted to add another little person to our home this year, I would have said, “no.” I might have even laughed. (No, I’m sure I would have laughed!) I did not know that in mid-April, a case worker I’ve gotten to know well over the past year and a half would call me, asking if we could take a baby for a night or two while they found a long-term home for him. I did not know that we would feel led to say “yes,” and then, a week later, that we would feel led to become that long-term foster home for him. According to the paperwork, if the Lord wills, Baby D will be with us a minimum of six months.
This means that what has been until recently a weekly blog will now become a “when I’m able to write” blog. My focus for 2016 will continue—I remain deeply committed to training my mind on what it looks like to live wisely—to parent wisely, to foster-parent wisely, to serve in my community of faith wisely, to spend money wisely, to invest in relationships wisely, to spend my time wisely, etc. It’s just that I may or may not be able to put those thoughts into a coherent blog post as often. I hope to—writing this blog and hearing from you has been a source of joy and edification for me this year. I hope the Lord will help me find and make the time and space I need for it. It’s just that when you are managing four little people, often doing it on interrupted sleep, it’s harder to predict what will be possible.
Which brings me back to today’s scripture. In Muslim cultures, you will often hear the word “inshallah,” which means “if God is willing.” You’ll hear it applied to everything from plans to get married next year to plans to go to the grocery store that day. Less often, you might hear Christians (and perhaps Jews) add “Lord willing” to their decrees of intent. I confess I only really ever hear it from pastors, and even then, I hear it infrequently.
But these past few weeks with Baby D in our lives have reminded me that “many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.” (Proverbs 19:21, ESV). This has been true of my plans to get to the grocery store, my plans to rehearse for a worship event I’m part of next week (if the Lord wills), my plans to do housework, my plans to read, even my plans to sleep. There’s nothing like a newborn in your life to show you the humor in making plans.
I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I know what I think tomorrow will bring. I know what I hope tomorrow will bring. But when it comes to telling people what I’m going to do, I am finding that it is wise to say, “if the Lord wills.” It is wise to acknowledge with humility that there is really only One who knows what tomorrow, or the next moment, holds. I want to get back into the habit of saying, “Lord willing.”
Lately, it seems like a wise thing to do.
What would it do for our posture toward God to start saying “Lord willing” more often? What would it communicate to those around us? That’s my application this week (and beyond)—to embody and communicate the humble truth that I can make my plans, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.