“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).
Most of us are familiar with the quote from Robert Burns: “The best laid schemes of mice and men go often askew, And leaves us nothing but grief and pain, For promised joy!” This would inspire John Steinbeck to write a titular book that most of us had to read in high school – “Of Mice and Men.”
Burns was inspired to write this after unwittingly disturbing a mouses nest while plowing his field. The nest would have taken great effort to construct, and in a moment, it was all undone. How often have we dutifully planned and then executed that plan, only to see something come along that undoes everything we have accomplished. Sometimes that seems like a daily occurrence for me.
Wendy and I had hoped to be back in our house by the end of March, but since the flooring won’t be put down until mid-April, it seems that our carefully laid plans have unraveled. Then just today, our new sign arrived. However, after installation, it became an expensive paperweight because there were electrical issues to work through. As I started writing this, I was hoping for a quick resolution to this problem, knowing that there may not be one. I was relieved when a quick fix got us up and running. And finally, as I was going to lunch, I dutifully looked both ways twice before pulling out onto King’s Highway, only to have a car within 20 feet of me as I pulled out. Thankfully, they must have perceived the bozo driving in the vehicle and were able to slow down enough and not T-bone me.
This has all gotten me to think about how we respond to the plans we make from little ones like, “Where am I going to eat lunch,” to bigger ones like “How am I going to finish these house repairs,” or even the biggest ones, “How am I going to get through this chemotherapy, and what will the outcome be?”
Many times we react with frustration and angst, thinking that our plans were absolutely perfect, so how could they not work out. It is true, “The heart of man plans his ways…” And with that, we think we know what’s best. Many of you will remember the television show with Jim and Margaret Anderson, along with their children Princess, Bud and Kitten – “Father Knows Best.” In my household, that is often not the case. And that was not true in the television series either in many episodes. But the maxim holds true – Father knows best!
It should be a great comfort to us when our plans end up on the trash heap as we rest in the thought that “the Lord establishes his steps.” Paul wisely sums this up in Romans 8:28: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good for those who are called according to his purpose.”
Now, the problem occurs when we decide what the “good” is, and often it is not what happens, so it is not what God decides is best. God’s aim for his children is found in the following verse: “For shoe whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…” Everything that happens in the life of a believer is working together to sanctify us, that we might “attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every join with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Eph. 4:13-16).
That means that we must trust the Providence of God in our lives. Our Father truly does know best. And if we practice these things, it will take the sting of disappointment away, and give us great hope in this life.