I’ve found that when people are thinking about what their purpose is one of the first fears that comes up is that they are going to mess it up or that they will miss God’s plan for them. Often this fear keeps us trapped right where we are. We are afraid to take action and move in a direction because we are afraid we will miss it. Maybe you are afraid to pursue a career wholeheartedly because it might prevent you from finding a husband. Maybe you’re afraid if you don’t start having babies soon you will miss your window and the problem is you aren’t even married yet. Maybe you are afraid to go into missions as a single woman because you don’t think God could bring you a man in the middle of the jungle. Maybe you are not pursuing a promotion because you want to have a baby, but can’t right now. Maybe you are not doing the thing you love because in your plan you wanted to get married first. Maybe you’re afraid you will marry the wrong person so you isolate yourself.
Often when we approach the topic of purpose or finding God’s will for our lives, we have a lot of fear that we will mess it up or that we will miss it. We think of purpose as something that is set in stone and magically hidden somewhere and if we follow all the right steps and don’t take a wrong turn, we will find it. But if we take a wrong turn or get off the track, then we will be lost and never know our true purpose. The fear of messing it up or missing it often keeps us from trying at all.
Here is where I would love to tell you all the helpful tips about goal-setting and writing a personal mission statement or creating a life plan. Those are all very good things that I have personally found very helpful. However, while planning is not against scriptural principles, it’s not necessarily Biblical. After all, Paul never sat down to write his personal mission statement and write out his short-term and long-term goals. (I’ve yet to find a Biblical character that has.) But when I looked at Paul, he knew who he was and where he was going.
Saul (pre-conversion Paul) was side-tracked. He was missing it and messing it up. He was killing Christians, and you can’t mess up more than that. Yet Paul in Galatians wrote “But when he who had set me apart before I was born…” (Galatians 1:15) Wait a minute…God knew who Paul was before he was even born. So that means that God knew that Saul was growing up in a Jewish home. He saw the education that Saul received in learning Jewish history and Jewish law. God made Saul a zealous and passionate person because he knit Saul together in his mother’s womb (Psalm 139:15). God was there when Saul was holding the coats for the religious leaders who stoned Stephen. So God must have known that Saul was side-tracked. Dare we even go so far as to say that God let Saul get side-tracked?
If God is sovereign and knew Paul before he was born, that means God knew you before you were born. In fact, as a believer, you were chosen to be in God’s family before you were born (Ephesians 1:4). That is a pretty amazing, mind-blowing thought.
Even as Saul was persecuting Christians, his heart was not against God. He was not despising the plans of the Most High; he simply did not know God’s plan for him. Is your heart rebellious toward God? Are you despising the obvious plan he has already shown you in his word? If your desire is to seek God, he will be found by you.
So what if you get side-tracked? What if you miss it? What if you mess it up? Is your God big enough to intervene and get you back?
God doesn’t have a Plan A and a Plan B for your life. In my mind, Plan A is what my life would be if I never made a mistake, if I always perfectly knew what God had for me and had the courage to do it. It’s the blissful happiness that could be mine if only I had… (fill in the blank). Plan B is all the bad things that have happened in my life because I made a mistake or didn’t have the courage to follow. But the truth is…there is no Plan B. It’s all Plan A to God. Sometimes the bad things are the very things we need to go through to be who God wants us to be. Sometimes bad things are part of God’s plan. Consider that Paul’s suffering was part of God’s purpose for him (Acts 9:16). I’m sure that for Paul it didn’t feel like Plan A when everyone was plotting to kill him.
If you still think you can mess it up or miss it, you are bigger than the god you have in your box. If you, one tiny, little peon person in the universe, can mess up God’s plan, you must not serve a very powerful God. You have made yourself god and you need to get over yourself. God was powerful enough to intervene in Paul’s life. He sent a flashing light from heaven, spoke in an audible voice to Saul and made him blind. That is powerful. Is your God powerful enough to intervene in your life if you get side-tracked? Is he able to help you find it if you miss it? Is he able to take you where he needs you to be even if you make a mess?
Paul recognized that it was only by God’s grace that he was called into a new identity and a new purpose (Galatians 1:15). After his conversion, he said, “Now he has intervened and revealed his son to me…” (Galatians 1:16 The Message) God’s grace is there for you as well. When he reveals his Son to you, will you accept the grace he has to offer you? When you do mess it up, repent and believe that the work Jesus did on the cross is enough to cover your sin. Do you believe that God is big enough to intervene? Does the cross have enough grace to cover all your mess?
There are still days when I ask God questions because I’m afraid. Did you really mean for me to have four children? It seems I’m yelling at them all the time; I’m not a very good mom. Are you sure you want me in women’s ministry? Do you realize how difficult it is to deal with women? Did you really ask me to write a book? I have to say YES! This is where he has me, and I’m trusting a God who is big enough to get me where he needs to go … by any means possible. The Princess presses on in spite of her fear because she knows that the King Father is sovereign over all things, even her. “And we know that for those who love, God works in all things for the good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” (Romans 8:28-29 ESV; you know I had to go there at some point.)