Man Proposes, God Disposes

That's the title of a famous 1864 painting by Edwin Landseer. It depicts an ill-fated exploration of the Northwest Passage, led by Sir John Franklin in the 1850s.

The actual expression has roots in pre-Christian mythology, though, and may be linked to a verse in the Old Testament:

"Many are the plans in a person's
 heart,
 but it is the LORD's purpose that
 prevails
.” -- Proverbs 19:21

The meaning is obvious and obviously true: We can and should plan our lives. ("Fail to plan and plan to fail," said Benjamin Franklin). Still--our times are really in God's hands and He may have something different in mind for us.

For our good—and His glory.

Audrey and I had plans to visit Israel with a small group of friends later this month. Then, onto a lifelong dream, Germany and the Passion Play in Oberammergau.

All of this was cancelled, of course, and ticket prices were refunded, but still....

There will be another chance in 2030.

This is but a minor disappointment in comparison to what so many are facing these days. Those who have been hospitalized, or those who have lost a loved one to COVID-19. Young Matthew Graveson, age 16, is fighting for his very life as I write these words. Our fervent prayers are being lifted for his healing, and for his parents, George and Sherry, who cannot be there by his side in the ICU. Please join us in these prayers.

For the newly unemployed, too, as well as those who are being overworked in order to keep the food chain and basic services going for the rest of us.

But I'm also thinking about high school graduates who will have no graduation ceremony--or prom. Rites of passage to which they have long looked forward. As have their parents.

Couples who have had their weddings postponed, like my nephew, Nick, and his fiancé Madison. Or rushed forward, like Elizabeth, who got married in her front yard in front of just 10 people. It was a beautiful ceremony, but not what she had always dreamed it would be. Audrey and I watched, along with hundreds of others, to a stuttering Facebook Live this past Sunday afternoon. In normal times we would have been there for sure.

"Now listen, you who say: 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, 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 it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that.' As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes."-- James 4:13-16.

These young people are living in unprecedented times and will have stories to tell the rest of their lives about the "Pandemic of 2020.” That doesn't give a lot of comfort now--but when the whole story is in, in retrospect, it may mean something to them.

And, as for the Passion Play-- maybe I'll live long enough to see it next go round. If not, at least I know the story pretty well....

"If you want to make God laugh," said Woody Allen, "tell Him your plans."

But I don't think our God is laughing right now. I think He is grieving, too--just like us--for all that has been lost during these days. He knows what's next, though--and if we did too, I think we would at least be able to...smile through the tears.
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