As a mom of young children, I often feel that my plans are in vain. Regardless of the time spent, the lists made, or the thoughts laid out, I can't have ultimate control over our day. I can recall a week this past winter where all of our children contracted a virus, and we spent everyday in the house nursing fevers and coughs, completely derailing our calendar. The following Monday, I was excited to get my "plan" together and start homeschool, only to have a bad reaction to food put me on the couch with stomach pain for hours. I can think of other days or weeks when I've had childcare arranged, only to have it cancelled or not work out because of an unexpected conflict. It seems like life is full of moments where my plans fall apart. Which can leave me wondering...what's the point of planning?
- Why should I spend time laying out my calendar for the week if it's just going to get rearranged?
- Why should I work to establish a daily routine or rhythm if it seems like most of our days are "exceptions" to the rule?
- Why do I need to write goals when they are extremely difficult to accomplish with unpredictable little children in my life?
- Why put "wake up at 6am" on my weekly plan, if I can't help the fact that my baby might wake up too many times to make that a reality?
We can get really really frustrated.
Life can start to feel "out of control" when we can't force our plans to happen. When people or tasks don't bend to our rule, we can become grumpy, bitter, and even downright angry. This type of disruption reveals our heart of selfishness, and we punish anyone who threatens to take down our task list. It's easy to see if we've reverted to this strategy, because our response to change is brutal.
We can give up on plans and structure altogether.
The opposite can also happen. In the face of constant change and adaptation, we can shrug our shoulders and fail to make many plans at all. We recognize the changing seasons of life, and say, "Oh well, let's just roll with the punches.", neglecting to take responsibility for intentional living. We can tell we've reverted to this strategy if our home, life and hearts are continually in chaos.
So what does God expect of us? Are we supposed to make plans or aren't we? And how should we respond when the plans don't play out exactly the way we hoped? While I'm still working out these thoughts, here are some principles that seem to be evident in scripture. Initially, they seem to be in conflict, but I think they work together:
1. Prudent planning is good. (Proverbs 14:8)
2. We should work diligently to accomplish those plans in faith. (James 4:17)
1. God is ultimately in control of our lives. (Proverbs 16:9)
2. His plans are better than ours. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
In light of these truths, we don't jump to either extreme. We can look at our daily, weekly, monthly and yearly calendar without false hope or disdain. We can set goals and expectations, without crumbling when those things don't come to pass. If our children get sick, we can see that as part of God's sovereign will - which is ultimately for our good. If our goals are reached, we can thank God for his provision of time and resources to make that happen.
If I dive much deeper, we'll be talking about theological issues that are more complex than the scope of this article. So for now, I will say that I believe God does want us to live intentionally and make plans, while still trusting his sovereign guidance in the process.
For the mama who feels like plans are pointless, here is some encouragement for you:
- You can make plans and trust God with the way they ultimately work out. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
- You don't have to be worried about what is going to happen with your day. (Phil 4:6)
- It is smart and wise to make plans. (Proverbs 14:8)
- You should invite God's wisdom into your planning process. (James 1:5)
- Your life is going to reflect the intentionality you approach it with. (2 Cor 9:6)
- God's words should guide your plans. (Psalm 119:105)
- God has plans for you that are being worked out for your good. (Romans 8:28)
- You should be a doer of God's word, and that's likely going to require planning. (James 1:22)
At the end of the day, planning isn't a way for us to exercise prideful or fearful control over our lives, but a tool that allows us to live more fully for God's glory and love others well.
Lastly, I wanted to mention something about planning that I think keeps me (and I'm sure others) from making plans. Because sometimes, making plans means that things in your life seem to get a little bit worse for a while. In order to get those meals on the calendar, get a better handle on your discipline strategy, figure out how to manage your laundry better, or create a box of bible study materials you're going to have to give time to it. And yes, that might mean leaving the house on a weeknight when there are chores still to do. It might mean letting the kids have an off-day to research or map out a better routine. It might even mean that you order pizza one night so you can plan meals for a month. I'm not sure what it looks like for you, but every time I've pursued more intentional plans, I've also had to put up with a little more chaos in the meantime.
Don't let that initial investment scare you away! Yes it will be hard. But it's worth it.
Although God's plans prevail, planning still matters mama!