Written By SJL, Singapore
Most of us make plans for everything, from what we’d like to have for dinner to what goals we want to achieve in 10 years. But I had always taken this to the extreme. As a planner and a perfectionist—the worst combination possible—I planned everything, down to the last detail.
Before going on a holiday, for example, I would spend a lot of time researching on places to visit and restaurants to dine at. My itinerary would be penciled down to the smallest detail, and if I didn’t manage to visit all the places I had planned to go, I would get very upset.
I did all this because I liked knowing what I was going to do with my time; I didn’t want to waste any of it. I liked certainty and being able to control the outcome. I believed wholeheartedly in the saying, “Fail to plan and you plan to fail.”
But this phrase finally failed me when something that I had been very sure of in my life fell apart. My boyfriend and I had been dating for close to nine years, and were very settled and comfortable in the relationship. Naturally, I had planned for our lives together—right down to when we should get married, where to get married, how many children we should have, and how we would spend the rest of our lives together.
So when the relationship came to an abrupt end, it broke me. What did I do wrong? God, is this the consequence for my sins? I know there were things that I hadn’t done well, but isn’t this too harsh a punishment?
God, however, spoke to me through a sister in Christ, and till this day, I hold dearly onto the verse she shared with me:
“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’”—James 4:13–15
The verse made me realize how wrong I was to have been so sure of my plans. I had made my grand plans because I thought I knew what was best for myself, and hadn’t considered what God thought of them. It was an outright rejection of God’s rule in my life—I was basically telling Him, “God, don’t worry. I know what I’m doing. Just watch me make this work.”
How mistaken I was to assume that all my plans would come to pass, and that tomorrow would arrive! I was foolish to think that every day was a given, and that I could continue with my daily routine while working out my future. That’s not always the case, and I saw this play out in the life of a close friend of mine. Her successful career and life as she knew it came to a sudden halt when she was suspected of having a brain tumor and had to undergo an operation.
Our time on earth is limited. It could be 80 years, 50 years, or just 30 years. The Bible reminds us that we are no more than “a mist that appears for a little while, and then vanishes”. It made me ask myself: Knowing this, how am I using my time?
The verse was a wake-up call for me to start using my limited time wisely—not in the ways I had conceived for my own good, but with the understanding of what I was made for: the glory of God.
This new perspective also helped me realize that I had been making my relationship with my boyfriend the focal point of my life. I had used all my time to chase my own dreams and my “perfect” plan instead of submitting to God. Now, I asked myself: Was I making God the center of my life, or fitting Him into the pockets of time or empty slots that hadn’t been filled up yet?
It was a painful lesson for me, but I have learned to acknowledge the sovereignty of God, trusting that the Master Planner is a much better planner than I am because He is perfect, and His plan is perfect. Every day, I now remind myself: “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”
God wants to give us the best. May we live each day as if it were our last, making every minute count for His glory.
“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”—Psalm 90:12