So much of our energy at the beginning of a year is spent in making plans, setting goals, laying out the things that we want and need to get done in the months ahead. Some make resolutions, attempting major changes in their lifestyles. Those who are the more productive among us usually take stock of what was accomplished last year, identify the next steps which need to be taken, and then establish a timetable for meeting those goals. In my own life, while much of what I address with you has to do with spiritual well-being, there is the business side of my job which requires no small amount of planning. None of us can just sit back and totally let things happen. There’s always some pushing that needs to be done.
With what sort of attitude are we to do that pushing? Our plans, our ideas of what needs to occur, our hard work, form only a small portion of the overall outcome. We can get so focused on what we think needs to happen that checking things off the list becomes our only purpose. We develop a hard edge in our pursuits, we miss special opportunities which pop up, spontaneity dies, and we forget that God has plans for us too.
As Solomon was anointed king, in place of his father David, scripture reports a conversation between him and God (1 Kings 3:5-14), perhaps something more similar to our prayer time than we might think. Solomon is invited to ask for whatever he might want from God. Overwhelmed by the tasks that lay before him as a young king, Solomon asks for wisdom and understanding so that he might rule the people well. It’s a striking request, one that involves, not just certain outcomes, but the personal grounding which might lead to unselfishly good outcomes. God’s generous response is to give wisdom and understanding and, along with it, greater outcomes than Solomon even dared ask for.
The Letter of James (chapters 4 and 5) deals with the way in which we make plans in life. The author encourages the reader to adopt the demeanor of a farmer who waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient over it until it receives the early and the late rain. You also be patient. There is much that must be done between making plans and having them accomplished. Much of what must occur has very little to do with us, yet we participate in a real way in the accomplishments. We identify things that need to occur, we make plans, we do some planting of those ideas, and we should work hard on all the things that fall within our control. Yet there is a great deal of waiting, allowing the rains of grace to come in their own season, turning our ideas over to God and trusting that what will ultimately be accomplished will be at least as good as we have desired. The things that fail miserably, perhaps you have noticed, often lead to things even better than we originally hoped.
As you begin another year, make your plans, set your goals, identify the areas which need improvement. Without such work we ignore God’s assignments to us. But do not neglect the daily letting go of those plans. Entrust God with them, seek wisdom and understanding, accept that what will be accomplished will be better than you have thought possible. Patience is an important part of how we pray and work in this world. Seek wisdom and understanding and wait for accomplishments to come in their proper time.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.