“God has a plan for you.”
“God has it under control.”
“You have a purpose.”
You have probably heard these words many times. I know I’ve heard them so much that they’ve just become noise. Each of these phrases was really just something to say to someone who was going through a trial of some kind.
In my house, we constantly talked about following dreams and passions. I was following my dreams of music and acting. But one day, I started thinking seriously about my dreams and my purpose. I began to ask: Does God really have a plan for me? Does God know what my purpose is?
The answer came to me last summer. I was teaching Bible stories at Vacation Bible School, and on the last day, I found myself with no assistants and fifteen minutes per “class” instead of the normal twenty to teach a bunch of squirming children about a Bible story I had never heard of. I got there early and read the story of Daniel, Abigail, and “Nasty Nabal” (which you can find in 1 Samuel 25).
In a nutshell, this story is about a woman named Abigail who uses her quick thinking to diffuse a serious dispute between her husband, Nabal and Daniel, who was in his post-shepherd, pre-king, days. The questions that followed this story were meant to prompt the kids to think about their talents and what they could do with them. In doing this, they would be imitating the example of Abigail, who had used her talents of being a quick thinker and excellent emissary to settle the dispute.
Talking with the children, it suddenly occurred to me that there were several more stories in the Bible with similar outlines; people with setbacks and hard stories who surpassed incredible odds and fulfilled a purpose set specifically for them from God. Let’s look at a few fairly well-known examples.
- Genesis 22: we read about Abraham, a man who almost had to sacrifice his son to prove his trust in God.
- Exodus 3-11: we read about Moses, who grew up in Egypt in the royal family, ran away, and was sent back to get Pharaoh to release God’s people.
- 1 Samuel 17: we read about David, a teen shepherd boy who fought a giant Philistine… and won.
- Esther: we read about Esther, a Jewish girl who saved the Jews from a massacre.
- Gospels: we read about Mary, a betrothed teen who bore God’s son to save the world.
- Gospels: we read about Peter, who went from fisherman to first pope of the Church.
These are well known stories, but look again. Their stories don’t exactly go smoothly:
Abraham was over 100 years old, and had to climb a mountain, physically and spiritually, in order to (he thought) sacrifice his only son whom he loved so much.
Moses had a stutter. God chose someone with a stutter to argue with the Pharaoh, who also happened to be Moses’ brother. And when Pharaoh refused to release God’s people, Moses had to watch his hometown get destroyed before leading the whiny Israelites to a Promised Land he himself would never even enter into.
David was a young teenager who fought a giant. He couldn’t even fit in the armor!
Esther was a Jewish girl who married a non-Jew – which was already scandalous. If she was found out to be a Jew, she would have been killed. Nevertheless, she revealed her identity as such and risked her life to save the Jewish people from being slaughtered.
Mary was a pregnant teenager. Today, “underage” pregnancy would get you sent to a special school. Back then, you were stoned to death if you were pregnant outside of marriage, especially if you were betrothed (which she was).
Peter was impulsive. He profanely denied Jesus three times, cut off someone’s ear when they were trying to arrest Jesus, freaked out when Jesus asked him if he loved him – and yet, Peter was our first pope!
The characters in each of these stories had a major setback, and were completely unaware of their purpose until it was either already happening, or until God had revealed his plan to them. Nevertheless, God had a hand in their stories, and he has a hand in ours too.
After thinking about all this, I started digging more into how God has a plan for me specifically. I found multiple passages from the Bible that describe specifically how God knows me. Here are a couple:
But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, Jacob, and formed you, Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name, and you are mine. Isaiah 43:1
Lord, you have probed me, you know me: you know when I sit and stand. You understand my thoughts from afar… you are familiar with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, you know it all… where can I go from your spirit? From your presence, where can I flee? If I ascend to heaven, there you are. If I lie down in Sheol, there you are… you formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am wonderfully made!… Your eyes saw me unformed: my days are written in your book. Psalm 139
Then, I went back to Genesis and noticed something. I had read the Creation story so many times, but I hadn’t really paid attention.
First, God creates the entire world. God makes the bountiful land, the vast, deep, seas, plants, trees, birds, reptiles, and fish, bacteria, the sun, moon, stars, planets, galaxies, angels, etc. and calls them all good. But then, in verse 27, he does something a little different.
God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them. Male and female he created them… God looked at everything he made, and he found it very good.
Genesis 1:27, 31
Did you see that? Only after mankind was created was everything very good! Everything was very good after we were created, because we were created in God’s image.
I wanted to know more about this whole “image” thing. Again, “made in God’s image” was white noise to me. I had never really thought about what it had meant.
One night, when I was thinking hard about the concept of “God’s image”, God spoke to me, bringing two verses to my mind.
God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them. Male and female he created them.
Whoever does not love does not love God, because God is love.
1 John 4:8
If we were made in God’s image, and God is love, this means that we are made in love, by love, for love.
In love, because God made us and he loves us.
By love, because God, who made us, IS love.
For love, because our purpose as Christians is to spread that love to everyone around us. How we spread that love is up to us, and I will go more into detail in my next post.
I want to close with this: You are known by God, our Father in Heaven, who loves you with an everlasting love. He loves you so much that he sent his Son to die and repair your relationship with him, and he desperately wants a relationship with you. You have been created in love, by love, for love. You have a purpose that is unique to you and your gifts and your passions.
God has a plan for you.
God’s got it under control.
You have a purpose.
– Shae John Bosco