Those who have everything planned in meticulous detail - who have a folder of routes and ideas and timetables and find it difficult to deviate from the detail. These people work better with those who just want someone else to make the plan.
Those who want to collaborate with others when it comes to planning, but then when it comes down to it, get frustrated and end up becoming the one who plans in meticulous detail, but without the folders and the timetables, and with a gentle sniff of flexibility (I think I am this person).
Those who have a vague plan in their head which only comes out with the right questions. These are often the most frustrating, but come out with some amazing stuff!
Those who plan last minute, are always late and would rather someone tell them what to do until someone tells them what to do. I'm never this person.
We all seem to have a different view of what it means to make a plan. When you ask 'what's the plan?' each of these different people will have different answers.... from here it is planned out minute by minute to 'wait and see'.
I've listened to a couple of sermons lately where I've been told that God has a plan for my life, so it's all going to be OK. I've been told that if my life isn't going to God's plan (ie not going well) then I'm clearly not a good Christian. I've also read a few blogs that have been frustrated about the misuse of Jeremiah 29:11, which was said to a particular people group at a particular time and shouldn't be misused to tell me that God has a plan for my life.
What I struggle with in this apparent plan of God where I am told that life is going to be rosy is when I see friends who are having a really hard time; who are suffering seemingly needlessly because things haven't worked out and then are told, well it's going to be OK, God has a plan, and it's wonderful. I believe God has a path for me to go on, but I think we've warped this idea of that plan by surrounding it with the phrase 'it'll be OK because......'.
The thing is Jeremiah 29:11 doesn't talk about things going well right now. It doesn't talk about the Israelites escaping from exile right now. God tells the Israelites, who are stuck in Babylon, to make the best of a bad situation because there is hope in the future. They didn't want to be stuck in Babylon. They didn't want to be there so much they got angry and Psalm 137 was written where the babies of those who have hurt them are smashed against the rocks. This is not the Psalm of a nation who are are happy to be in exile, happy to say, well, it's OK, God has plans, but is the Psalm of a nation who are so frustrated at their situation that they express emotion by wanting to hurt the Babylonians as much as they have been hurt.
Sometimes when we say, don't worry, it's going to be OK, God has plans, we forget that the people we are saying it to are those who have had everything meticulously planned out but have been thrown into exile. When we see the plight of Christians driven out of their homes in Iraq, we can't imagine saying 'don't worry, Jeremiah 29:11'.
What this verse does promise the Israelites, however, is that there is hope in the future. They are promised hope in a future where they will prosper. They did eventually make it out of exile, but life was never the same again. For me, that hope comes in Christ, who was sent by God into the world to die so all may be restored - so that all may have eternal life. When we talk about plans we are not talking about life getting better today, or tomorrow. When we talk about plans we are not talking about that deep seated pain an individual has gone through being what God wanted for that person. When we talk about plans, we see hope in the future that there will be a way out of this, that there is hope that there will be a future where there will be no more pain or sickness or death. This is Christian hope. This is the hope that brings to completion the plans of prosperity in Jeremiah 29:11. We might see glimpses of that as we journey through life, but that hope of prosperity is more than a glimpse.
When Christ came to earth as a human being, he brought God's Kingdom to earth. I believe we are living in a time where God's Kingdom has come through Christ, but that the world has not been fully restored. When we see glimmers of hope, through healing, through reconciliation and through the clear signs of God's love poured down on earth, we see some of that Kingdom. We were told in church this morning that where we stand against what society chooses to do that doesn't reflect God's Kingdom we need to offer an alternative. Where people are fighting we need to seek peace, where people have no food we need to seek to bring food, where people are suffering we need to stand in solidarity with them to bring them out, where Richard Dawkins suggests abortion is better than a child with Downs Syndrome (his words this week have made me so angry) we need to speak out. Every time we do that we bring glimpses of hope, glimpses of God's Kingdom, glimpses of those plans that God has for us. Hope that speaks of this:
"He will settle disputes among great nations. They will hammer their swords ploughs and their spears into pruning-knives. Nations will never again go to war, never prepare for battle again". Isaiah 2:4