“It must be destiny!” Have you ever said that? Or “I’ve got this weird feeling – it’s like this was meant to happen!” Sometimes we get a strong sense that circumstances somehow conspired together in a way that made something happen. It could be a relationship, a chance meeting, or just a huge coincidence…
But here’s the thing… when we feel or experience that kind of sensation, what we are really saying is that somehow, something outside of us – some external force – must have had a part to play. When I have a strong sensation that “this was meant to be” I am entertaining the notion that some greater intelligence may have pre-arranged things to work out for me like they did. If things worked out well even those who would describe themselves as ‘none believers’ have an in-built compulsion to thank God – and if they work out badly, then in the same way, we want to blame somebody!
Not everyone feels like that. Some people like to think we’re on our own. There are laws of nature that mean we’ll behave in certain ways for sure, but on the whole we make our own destiny.
Snakes and Ladders
Often people basically view life like a game of snakes and ladders. The random roll of the dice determines what happens to us. Sometimes we get lucky breaks, (we win some money, or we end up in the right place at the right time) and so we do well and go up a ladder. On the other hand, life may deal us a bad roll of the dice (we have an accident, or we lose an investment) and we slide down a snake and have to start again.
Perhaps a better analogy for the way many people think of life is like a game of Monopoly (the famous trading game). Sure there are things we can’t determine, good and bad things happen to people all the time but we do have a certain amount of freedom to make our own luck. If we work hard, make good decisions and investments then perhaps we can make the most of the good opportunities that come our way.
Do I have a destiny?
But is there more to life than just that random roll of the dice? If there is a God could it be that He has a plan for our lives that has been predetermined even before we were born? It’s pretty clear from the Bible that this is the case… listen to these scriptures:
“Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139:16
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:16
So if God has indeed got a plan or ‘paths of blessing’ prepared for us why doesn’t he just make all that good stuff happen to us? He’s God after all! Why doesn’t he just fix the game and have us land on a ladder every time?
The answer is not an easy one. In fact theologians have wrestled with this question since Christianity first began (it’s called the free will versus predestination debate). You could almost rephrase the question like this: ‘Why does God let bad things happen?’ The answer lies in our understanding of how God chooses to use his sovereign power and will through ordinary people like you and me.
The farmer and the vicar
Have you heard the story of the farmer and the vicar? The farmer had invited the vicar for dinner at his home after the Sunday service. As they travelled to the farmhouse they passed through the lanes between the fields. The corn was high and the orchards were heavy with fruit, the animals were healthy and the hedges and fences in good order. The vicar was so impressed he clapped his hands together and remarked to the farmer, “Well, God has certainly blessed you with wonderful farmland has he not?” The farmer looked thoughtful for a while and then said with a twinkle in his eye, “Well… You should have seen it when he had it all to himself”!
As irreverent as this story may sound I think God would enjoy it too because the Bible tells us that he has made things to work in this way. You see, he provides the land, the seed and the rain but he put us in the garden to cultivate and take care of it (Genesis 2:15). So this helps us to understand how the destiny God has for us works together with our own choices to give us a hope and future of blessing.
This is why Paul writes to the young church in Rome:
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
Because when we make decisions that are motivated by our love for God we know we can trust him to use all circumstances, even difficult ones, for our good.
The Master Craftsman
In Isaiah 64 God is likened to a master craftsman: “Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.”
A craftsman has an idea or a plan for the piece he is working on. He sees the end result in his mind’s eye and he brings out the beauty of the material he is working on. He doesn’t force it into trying to be something that it is not, he knows the material through and through and works with it. He uses his skills to bring out all its best characteristics with experience and creativity.
The job of the material is to yield to this process and trust that the master craftsman knows what he’s doing; that he has purposed and destined it for glorious things.
God is like that master craftsman. He has a great plan for your life and he sees the potential in you for amazing and wonderful things. Perhaps the process is not what you would want right now, but it’s to produce treasure that will give you life and hope and a future.
So the question is this: “Are we going to let the master craftsman do his work? Will we yield to his skill and trust his judgement?” I believe that as we make our decisions in life one step at a time God will help guide us, if we let him. Then he will bring our feet to the right paths; the destiny that he has prepared for us to walk in. He will guide us into the full purposes for which we were created and bring out the treasure in us all.