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God’s plans and ours

Sometimes I run into people who tell me that God’s plan for their life has been thwarted. The culprit is sometimes a spouse, sometimes an illness or other unfortunate circumstance, or sometimes it is the person her- or himself. Most of these people are working with the perception that God has laid out a direct trail for us to follow that will lead us to the lives he wants us to have, being the people he wants us to be, dwelling in his plans. Then stuff happens that takes us off course, we get lost and fear there is no recovery. That is simply not true.

For the past several days, my morning devotional has had me reading the Old Testament book of Ruth which I finished today. Here is a brief summary:

During a famine in their homeland, Naomi and her husband Elimilech move from Bethlehem (not Pennsylvania) to Moab (not Utah) with their two sons. Naomi is widowed while living in Bethlehem and soon after her sons get married to women from Moab. Then, after ten years of life in a new city, both of Naomi’s sons die, leaving her alone in a foreign land. Naomi decides to go back to her family in Bethlehem, a smart move for a woman with no means of support. She tells her daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth, that they should return to their families as well. Orpah agrees, but Ruth decides to go with her mother-in-law to Naomi’s hometown of Bethlehem. Boaz, a wealthy relative of Naomi’s deceased husband, eventually agrees to marry Ruth and together they have a son. Then we read this remarkable sentence:

They named him Obed; he became the father of Jesse, the father of David (4:17 NRSV).

So the great-grandmother of David – the quintessential king of Israel, the one who epitomizes even at the time of Jesus all that is right with Israel – is a Moabite woman named Ruth, a foreigner. Even more, Ruth and David’s great-grandfather Boaz only get together because of a famine and the death of Ruth’s husband. Notice there is no straight line from Naomi to David. Yet God’s plan is accomplished.

Some would say this is exactly how God drew it up on the sidelines before inserting the players. I struggle with that understanding – it minimizes free-will, sin, human and ecological tragedy, and more. God becomes a puppet-master responsible for famine and death. I believe instead that God is so big that his plans cannot be permanently thwarted. Sure, we might take the long way, but God will see his plans through when we are willing to trust and follow.

In other words, there is nothing you can do to stop God from fulfilling his plan for your life. There is nothing you have done, haven’t done, will do, or won’t do that will cause God to give up on you. All you need to do is stop turning him down, and start to listen and follow.

The turning point in Ruth’s story is when she is able to trust the God she has seen in the life of Naomi. When refusing to stay behind with her family and follow Naomi instead, Ruth says,

Where you go, I will go; Where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God (Ruth 1:16 NRSV emphasis added by me).

Are you willing to trust God’s plan for your life? Or would you rather stick with your own?

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