I have had some people ask me how does one reconcile the seemingly conflicting views that God has a plan for us while we, as people, have free will and can choose to do whatever it is we want to do with our lives.
When it comes to faith related issues, there are many questions that we could spend a considerable amount of time exploring such as: why do bad things happen to good people, why is there war, why is there sickness…? However, in the instant case, there does seem to be a considerable conflict between the two ideas in question.
First, how do we really know that God does have a plan for us?
Jeremiah 29:11 gives us this insight: “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.”
Now this sounds like a really good plan and one that I want to be a part of. But is this plan one that will be carried out by God and unfold before us without us having to do anything? Do we just sit back and wait for good things to happen for us?
Even though God wants great things for us, it is up to us to take the first steps to realizing the benefits of his plan. God may give us an initial push in the right direction but after that we are free to choose our own course. It is up to us to live up to our side of the plan.
What is our side of the plan? What does God want from us and how does He want us to act?
There are many areas of the bible that we can look to and see how God wants us to hold up our side of His plan but one of the more pointed areas is in Micah 6:8 where we are told: He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
God has given us His ten commandments which basically tell us to lead a morally pure life. He has asked us to take care of our fellow man and keep Him foremost in our lives.
Even though God has asked these things of us, God does not control every aspect of our lives. We do have free will and we have the ability to exercise that free will. With that ability, when we chose to exercise our free will, we must also live with the consequences even if those consequences can be hurtful to us and those around us.
Take for example Adam and Eve. God gave them the Garden of Eden to care for. His only command to them was to not eat from a specific tree in the garden. After telling them this, He did not take away their ability to eat from the tree. Adam and Eve were free to choose their own actions. And, through exercising their free will, the action they chose was to eat from the forbidden tree.
Adam and Eve used their free will and deviated from God’s plan. Eating the forbidden fruit had significant consequences not only for Adam and Eve but for all that came after them.
Man’s free will is not inconsistent with God’s plan for us. Even though man’s free will can cause conflict with God’s plan, our free will and our ability to choose is a gift from God. It is up to us to use this gift wisely or not. Even though we may stray from the path that God has for us, God will always be there for us to help us find our own way back and realize all of the good things he has in store for us.