"O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps." (Jeremiah 10:23)
We like to say things like, "No one else knows what is best for me," or, "I have to do my own thing in my own way." This may sound brave and bold, and may be true to the extent that allowing others to standardize our lives in their own mold is both insipid and cowardly; but this verse says you and I are not the best candidates to map out our own lives either. As Jeremiah puts it, we just don't have it in us. Oh, we can pencil in some long-range plans for the future; but the real planning should be handled by an Expert.
In the first place, we're all wired with certain prejudices and pre-conceived ideas that may or may not be helpful. Then, we have only the capability of seeing what is before our eyes, while God has the benefit of a true birds-eye view. "I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye" (Psalm 32:8). What fools we would be not to take advantage of the all-seeing, all-knowing God, who knows not only the end from the beginning, but, even more importantly, the end and beginning of us.
Not only that, when you and I feel the sole responsibility for our welfare and decisions rests with us, we’re tempted to use any means available—biblical or otherwise—to chart a course that gets us where we think we need to be. King Saul, who lost his kingdom because he tried to bring about the will of God in the wrong way, is a prime example of such an individual (1 Sam. 15). Any professing Christian who tries to set the course of his or her life without the expertise of the Only One able to see around the next bend, is always working under the handicap of shortsightedness, at best, and risking the blessing of God, at worst.
David says in Psalm 37:23, "The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD…" I am fully aware that God's purpose for our lives will ultimately be fulfilled; but I do believe we can make it unnecessarily circuitous and bumbling. Case in point: the children of Israel in the wilderness. And Paul had the promise of God that his heart’s desire to preach in Rome would be fulfilled (Acts 19:21; 23:11); but I’m not sure God meant for him to arrive there in chains.
It's good (important, in fact) to set goals in life, but we will only be sure we have reached our potential, spiritually speaking, when those goals are ones that God has set for us. Listen to the apostle James' thoughts on our so-called Day Planners: "Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain...For that we ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live and do this or that" (James 4:13,15). We not only need God to set our goals but to guide our paths. He’s not only interested in where we’re going, but also the steps we take to get there. Life is too important to entrust the planning to rank amateurs like you and me. We're simply out of our depths.
O, I dare not walk alone; I would stumble on my own,
O, my Lord, lead me on through the night.
Hold my hand; don’t let me stray,
Mark the path and show the way,
To my home in that City of Light.
Show me the way, the way home;
Show me the way lest I roam.
Savior, won’t you walk before me,
For the night is dark and stormy;
Show me the way, the way home.
John W. Peterson