When I was little, 24 was my favorite number. It still is. Math was not particularly my best subject, but when I was learning the times tables, I loved the number 24 because it gave you so many options: 1 x 24; 2 x 12; 3 x 8; 4 x 6. Amazing! Such a versatile number! The fact that my birthday is on the 24th may have also had something to do with it being my favorite number…
When I was a teenager or a bit younger, I imagined that turning 24 years old was going to be the best year ever. I was going to be stylish and beautiful, and I was going to get married. The first two are up for debate, and well, 24 came and went, and I definitely didn’t get married. In fact, the 24th year of my life was not the best ever. Not at all as I had imagined.
Looking back it seems quite silly and childish that I would build up an arbitrary year in that way and imagine that a major life event would happen at a set time as I conceived in my mind. Yes, rather silly indeed. And yet, we do similar things all the time. Maybe not with favorite numbers or perhaps not with pinning major life events down to a specific year, but we make big plans. We like our plans. Maybe we tell other people about our plans, and we state them as if they were fact. Next year we’re going to buy a house, we say. Or maybe our plan is as simple as cooking chicken for dinner tomorrow night. Either way, we say it with as much certainty as we would state that tomorrow the sun is going to rise.
Or perhaps we keep our plans to ourselves—a secret held inside that we guard with anticipation of revealing it to the world when we’re ready. Either way, planning in and of itself is not a bad thing and to a certain degree, is necessary. However, we need to remember that we do not control our future. We are not the sole authors of our own destiny, contrary to what some may say.
There is a phase that is spoken quite a bit in Latin America. Some people say it out of habit, while others out of conviction. Si Dios quiere. If God wants or if it is God’s wil.
Si Dios quiere, we’ll visit you tomorrow. “Si Dios quiere, in February I’ll be a father,” a colleague remarked, referring to when his wife was due to give birth to their baby. Si Dios quiere recognizes that while we may plan or hope or anticipate something, life is uncertain and certainty resides with God alone.
I was reminded of this reality a couple weeks ago in a rather significant and unwelcome way. I had thought, for certain well-founded reasons, that I knew my plans for the coming year—where I would be living, what job I would be doing, etc. It turns out, though, that those plans are not nearly as sure as I had thought. In a matter of minutes, I went from feeling quite confident of my plans to realizing that I have no idea what is going to happen. This uncertainty, while unwelcome, has reminded me to think more of my plans in terms of Si Dios quiere and has reminded me, once again, that I am to make plans with the recognition that God is in control and alone knows my future. And not only does God know my future, but He is good and faithful and can be trusted with all of the knowns and unknowns in my life.
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.” (NIV)