A few weeks ago, I heard a story about a widow in India who was desperate for food to feed herself and her two children. She went inside, closed the door and prayed God would provide. And He did. When she opened her door, groceries were sitting on her doorstep. What surprised me about this story wasn’t that God had provided exactly what this woman needed; after all, this is completely in line with God’s character and His goodness. But I was absolutely floored by the fact that she closed her door. Her faithful practice of prayer and petition was beyond me. She knew that God alone would provide. That no one else needed to see her need, because her God did.
Alone in the desert, Hagar calls God a “God of seeing” and “him who looks after me.” (Genesis 16:13)
In contrast, here is my faithless tendency. Sure, I will pray and ask and even trust the Lord to provide for my every need, however, I’m going to go ahead and leave the door open. You know, just in case someone is standing in the general vicinity of my door. If so, maybe they will see my need and meet it. Maybe they will hear me voice my request to the Lord, and be compelled to help me out. Maybe I can get some people to huddle around the door and devise a plan with me, in case the Lord needs some help. And the justification is simple, because maybe the Lord has ordained the unknowing passerby.
I lack the faith to even think about closing my door. It’s a matter of the heart. Closing the door is risky. Closing the door scares me. Closing the door means I have to depend on the Lord alone.
And so, I devise a plan, nay plans, with my door wide open. Chronically. And I’ve done it my entire life. My planning moves from the “I love to check things off on my to-do list” brand of the disease (though I admit this is true of me as well), to “I need something (or at least I think I do), so here is what I’m going to do to get it”. If I don’t make things happen, who will? Imagine me at my wide open door with ten thousand tools and tricks to remain inside, under the proverbial umbrella of “trusting the Lord”, and still get what I want. So I try to rope something in, and I can’t seem to quite catch it. Or I shout at the top of my lungs, but no one can quite make out my cries. Or someone comes along, and I tell them to tell a string of people, to tell a string of people, but the ears I’m hoping my need will fall upon are never reached.
My plans are never written down and rarely ever spoken. They are never concrete and barely specific, justifiable to have and not admit them as rooted in unbelief. They are developed from my flesh in order to gain or achieve some earthly need, desire or pleasure. They might appear honorable, but they are tainted with my bent toward sin, manipulation, my desire to be in control and my dependency on others rather than the Lord.
Well I recently came to a point in my planning and I realized that I had exhausted all my plans. Every. Single. One. Something I had hoped for, something I had tried to make happen, fell through. I went out of my way to be in the right place at the right time, and everything went awry. Not unlike other times I had been in this same position, I naturally thought, “Ok, well what now?” And then I realized… I don’t have any more plans. To put it another way, someone was walking by my door, while I was perpetually petitioning the Lord, and they didn’t stop to meet my need. So I looked out my door and there was literally no one else in sight. No silhouette on the horizon moving toward me. No footsteps to suggest there was anyone within miles. And no tricks or tools at my feet. My continuous cycle of planning, had come to an abrupt end.
So after a thousand failed plans, and with no plan waiting in the wings, here is what I have learned:
My plans are rooted in fear and pride. I am afraid of the future, of what it might look like and of disappointment. I fear the Lord may have something in mind that I don’t like, or worse, I have something great in mind and the Lord is not on the same page. My pride comes out when I think my plan is superior to His. It is timelier, and rids me of the waiting period that He might require.
Psalm 56:3-4, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?”
I actually hate planning. As crazy as it sounds, this is something I realized recently, in the absence of plans. Planning and then trying to work out these plans is absolutely exhausting. I can’t imagine the Lord designing us to live in a perpetual cycle of failure and disappointment. And it always ended this way for me. Because as much as I want something and work toward it, ultimately there are things I cannot control.
Psalm 115:3, “Our God is in the heavens and he does all that he pleases.”
Isaiah 37:26, “Have you not heard that I determined it long ago? I planned from days of old what I now bring to pass.”
I love not having a plan. I found freedom without plans. I found that I am more susceptible to God daily leading and guiding me. I am allowing God to reveal His faithfulness, for His goodness to be loud and clear in my life, for me to find myself in worship and adoration of Him as He makes more of Himself known to me, and for me to experience deep and lasting joy in Him alone. The plan is so simple with the door closed. The plan is to ask the Lord and to depend on Him who is faithful.
Job 42:2, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”
Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
Not planning, takes effort. This may not be true for everyone but my natural inclination is to have a potential plan, to have the door open. Over the past few weeks, I have caught myself making a plan and then trying to figure out how to make it happen. In these moments, I literally say to myself, “Shut the door.”
The sovereignty of God requires his action, not mine. My focus is to ever be on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2). God wants me to absolutely trust and depend on Him. Let me clarify, I am not saying that we idly sit by, letting life and good God-given opportunities pass us by. When God tells us to open the door, we are obedient and we may even open it to find abundant provision. It is a matter of our hearts. We set our hearts toward Jesus, continually admitting our dependency on Him. Continually putting ourselves in a position where God can work out his will in and through us. The specific end of any planning that I do, must be God’s glory.
Psalm 37:5, 7, 23-24, “Commit your way to the Lord; trust I him, and he will act… Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him… The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand.”