Today’s question comes from Yvette. She asks: “Is our life based on fate, or uncharted waters?? Can we change the inevitable? Or was it changed because it was inevitable? I ask this because I have cut myself off of most news — local and World — because of the fear factor involved. They instill a fear, and I wonder with or without this fear, could anything be changed? And if it is changed, was it already predetermined that it would be changed? Is our life already mapped out? Or are we in charge of our own destiny?”
Thanks for the question. You raise a delicate point that I encounter often in the context of providing pastoral care to folks. There are many folks out there whose lives are held together by the belief that God has a plan for our lives. This belief gives them a sense of guidance and comfort – especially as they face the uncertainties in life.
There are a lot of others out there who completely reject the notion that God has a plan for our lives. “If so,” they counter, “then are you suggesting that God’s plan includes horrors such as a young child being killed in an accident or atrocities of the Holocaust?”
It can certainly be tricky speaking to groups of individuals who hold such strong and competing beliefs.
How do I do that?
In order to explain different ways of thinking about “plan”, I use the analogy of parenting. If you were to ask most parents if they have a plan for their children lives, many would say yes.
What do they mean by plan?
Most parents would say their plan would be that their child grows up to be as happy, as healthy, and as whole as possible.
How do they live into that plan?
It depends on the personality of the parent. Some parents interpret plan literally – and try to control their child’s choice of education, spouse, and career. Some think of God’s plan in a similar way. They assume God directly intervenes in individuals’ lives in order to guarantee a particular outcome.
Another way of parenting is to encourage and empower a child to make choices for her or himself. So while the parent may desire the child to lead a happy, healthy, and whole life – at certain junctures the parent gives the child the space to make decisions that might jeopardize her or his happiness, health, or wholeness in the short run. Similarly, I believe God gives us human beings the same space.
The focus for me as a person of faith and pastor, then, is to encourage and equip individuals to lead lives that are most likely to lead to wholeness. This way of being has helped me move toward a sense of balance in my life that is reflected by a quote from one of my least favorite saints – St. Augustine. St. Augustine is credited with a quote that reads: “Pray as though everything depended upon God. Work as though everything depended upon you.”
I can certainly relate to your decision to limit your consumption of the news. I have made the same decision myself. I am very cognizant of the biases certain news outlets have in their presentation of the issues. I try to avoid those news outlets from any extreme whose goal is to inflame folks or set one group against another. I find ways of getting involved in the issues I care most about in ways that cultivate within me a sense of hope rather than despair.
So what about you? What is your take on these matters?
goal is to inflame folks or set one group against another. I find ways of getting involved in the issues I care most about in ways that cultivate within me a sense of hope rather than despair.
So what about you? What is your take on these important matters?