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You do not totally control life's outcome

September 23, 2022

Daily Scripture

James 4:13-14

13 Pay attention, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such-and-such a town. We will stay there a year, buying and selling, and making a profit.” 14 You don’t really know about tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for only a short while before it vanishes.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

If James had been putting in the chapter breaks (rather than Stephen Langton, an archbishop of Canterbury, who did it around 1227 *), he might well have started a new chapter here. He spoke to merchants and other wealthy people in his day, but the principles apply to all of us. He took his teaching about the importance of humility, and specifically applied it to people who planned and acted as though they and their plans fully controlled what happened in their lives.

  • Wait a minute—hadn’t James ever heard that “to fail to plan is to plan to fail”? “The sin here is not their thinking ahead (cf. Proverbs 6:8; 20:18; 22:3; 24:27; 27:12; 30:25) but their arrogant presumption—acting as if their lives are in their own hands rather than God’s (v. 16; cf., e.g., Amos 4:1; 6:1).” ** James saw, not that people were just planning what to do next, but that they felt certain of the outcome. Have you ever had well-laid plans go awry for any reason?
  • “You don’t really know about tomorrow.” At one extreme, knowing that can completely paralyze us, and that would not be good. But we all know of times when plans to start a new business, pursue a long-delayed calling to service, or make a long trip have had to change due to a sudden financial shift, a lab report showing a hidden health problem, even a global pandemic. How can you plan, yet hold those plans loosely enough for you and God to adjust to life’s reality?

King Jesus, you didn’t promise your followers nothing but definite good results in this world. What you told me to count on was that you would be with me, no matter what came my way. Thank you! Amen.

GPS Insights

Picture of  Leah Swank-Miller

Leah Swank-Miller

Leah Swank-Miller is Director of Student Ministries at Resurrection Overland Park. A Kansas native, she has been a professional actress for the past 15 years, and she loves to see the vastness of God’s creation through theatre and the arts. Leah is pursuing an M.Div. from Saint Paul School of Theology. Leah, Brian, and their two children love to play tennis, golf, soccer, and board games.

“How can you plan, yet hold those plans loosely enough for you and God to adjust to life’s reality?”

If I knew the answer to this question I would be writing some best sellers or traveling the world with my brilliant TED talks. But alas, I have yet to master the “plan ahead but hold those plans loosely” goal that seems so unattainable.

I’m currently in a state of unplanned life changes. A painful experience occurred that left me (and my family) reeling. A once trusted safe space for nine years of our lives no longer is that for us anymore, and we’ve been deeply hurt. I’ve got to be honest, I’ve questioned God a lot in these past few months. Not in God’s goodness or love for us, but why did I dedicate so much of my life to something that would end so painfully? I had planned accordingly to what I thought was God’s desire for my family’s direction in life. And yet here we are.

Life is unpredictable and I’ve found that when I try to hold on tightly to those plans it’s like a tug of war battle and I’m usually left with rope burns and empty hands.

In these moments of loss and confusion, I’ve often thought about how Jesus responded to life’s unpredictability. I’m not sure he fully knew that a large crowd would continue to gather as he preached to the masses getting restless because there was nothing to eat but two fish and 5 loaves of bread. When he was tired and planning on finding rest, I’m not sure his immediate plans were to meet a Samaritan woman at the well. Yet, he lived in the moments and met each moment with an openness to what was happening. Instead of being rigid to “what needs to happen now”, Jesus carried grace and peace to each encounter of life, (not void of emotions mind you). He said, “Don’t worry about tomorrow. It will take care of itself. You have enough to worry about today.” Matthew 6:34.

What Jesus leaves with us is the promise that we can count on him to be with us, no matter what comes our way. As painful and confusing as it may be, we are not alone, ever. Even when we feel like we are, ESPECIALLY when we feel like we are. We are never alone in the mess of our plans slipping away or being shifted in different directions. God desires to be near to us, especially in the questioning of uncertainty. For God is our certainty, now and forever. And that is something I AM planning on.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* From
** Comment on James 4:13 in NIV, Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, eBook. Zondervan. Kindle Edition.