I should be married by 24.
I should have my dream job right out of college.
I should be a mom of two by 30.
Sound familiar? It’s a timeline for life…a timeline many of us make for ourselves. I know I did! I had a timeline based on the lives of my parents, friends and mentors, and never bothered to ask God if that’s what He wanted for me.
These timelines are typically made up of life-altering landmarks—things like relationships, babies, new jobs and cross-country moves. While these things ARE special, they aren’t the majority of life. Most of life is done in the quiet moments: washing dishes, filing a report, going on dates, getting up in the night with a baby. We see the highlight reel on Instagram and think, If my life had only gone as planned, everything would be different.
James 4:13-15 says: “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business, and make a profit.’ 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 the Lord is willing, we will live and do this or that.’”
James is pointing out what is universally true: We do not know the future. While we can make plans, they are not promised to us. We should also be making plans according to God’s leading, not according to what we see in the lives of others!
Our lives are short. As James says, we are “a mist that appears for a while.” With such a short span of time on our hands, why do we regulate it so strictly? Why do we demand it look a certain way without asking God if this is, in fact, the way He wants it to look?
We do have a measure of choice in how our lives play out; God has granted us that. And as I’ve said before, it’s possible to stay single longer, go without a job or miss opportunities when we refuse to follow God’s leading and wisdom. But God is also merciful and present, and He delights to open doors and guide us through them. When we plan our lives without considering His sovereignty, we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment and missing out on the beauty of our very real lives.
Proverbs 27:1 says, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” We don’t know what tomorrow—or the next day, or next year—will hold. We don’t get to create timelines for our lives, expectations for God to fulfill for us. We were created for God, to be in a relationship with Him. We are called to follow Him—not demand He follow our timeline.
The crazy part? Letting go of your timeline is incredibly freeing. You will find that your actual life is beautiful just the way it is. You’ll see that singleness has value, or waiting for a baby grants you special privileges, or that buying a house is actually worth the wait. Letting God be God is the epitome of freedom! As you embrace the goodness in where you are, your eyes open to the blessings already around you. And when your life plays out in a different timeline than originally expected, you aren’t disappointed—because you didn’t expect things that God never promised.
Refusing to box God in is not the opposite of hope. You can—and should—still hope for those big occasions in life. Just don’t demand God make them happen on your time. He is God; we are not. Living with that in mind is the foundation of faith.