“If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans,” is an old aphorism often attributed to Woody Allen. But’s it probably older than Allen. Its origins may be from an old Yiddish proverb.
This morning as we’re preparing to check-out of the house we’re renting in Temple Terrace, I recalled when we arrived we were going to attend the Florida College Lectures. Then a student contracting the measles forced the school to cancel lectures. Something unheard of. Plans altered.
We had planned a year ago to stay in Florida through March to attend the NCAA regional basketball game to be played in Tampa today. My son, Kenny, bought tickets for my birthday. We had hotel reservations, We were going to have a great time.
Who knew something like a unseen virus could cancel the NCAA tournament? Then put the NBA season on hold? Suspend all Spring training baseball games? And close every theme park in the United States? Unprecedented. Plans altered.
We also had planned to attend Norma’s semi-annual cousins family reunion on March 28. But concerns over the spreading coronavirus coupled with the age of some of the family members and their traveling from other states caused her cousin to cancel it. Unexpected. Plans altered.
Currently we have plans to go to the Smoky Mountains. Then preach in three gospel meetings. And then go to Canada for the summer. Hmm?
With churches cancelling services, these meetings may not happen. Yesterday, President Trump closed the border to Canada. Surely, it will reopen in time for us to go in May. But who knows.
In fact, with events moving so fast and changing so quickly, travel restrictions could be put in place to keep us from leaving Florida.
These unexpected changes in our plans remind us of James’ exhortation.
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. (Jas. 4:13-16).
I have learned that God’s will is not always my will. While some things are the unchanging, unconditional will of God like His plan for salvation, other things are conditional. Depending on human choices. They may or may not happen.
But then there is the permissive will of God. Things occur in our broken, fallen world. Some due to natural events. Others because of our choices. And still others because of the choices of other people. Things beyond our control.
In times like these we are abruptly reminded that our plans always have a contingency clause. “If The Lord wills.” However, the uncertainty of our lives and plans ought not to elicit worry, fear or panic. Rather, it should draw us closer to God. Realize our dependence on Him. And live our lives in view of eternity.
By the way, I don’t believe God is laughing today at our change of plans. While I see the point of the proverb, we don’t serve a God who mocks our concerns or consternation. God may sigh at our foolishness. Or weep at our lack of trust. He most certainly feels compassion for our hurting hearts. Our anxious minds. And our troubled souls.
A cursory pursual of the Psalms offers us the comfort that God sees our problems. Hears our pleas. Feels our pain. And answer our prayers.
God is merciful. Kind. Compassionate. And loving. He’s not laughing at the afflictions, anguish and agony of his people.
So, today we move forward. Cautiously. Carefully. Consciously. And yet confidently in God’s care. But it’s all done with the caveat, “If the Lord wills.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman