I have a particular phrase I find myself reciting to the ladies in recovery on a regular basis: God has a plan for your lives. I still believe it, but I'm beginning to understand that concept in slightly different terms.
I have never embraced predestination and therefore cannot believe that God has our entire lives mapped out. I can't fathom that he hands us a script, says "read this" and then moves on. Where would free will be if this were true?
However, based on my own experiences, books I've read and passages of scripture, it would appear that God knows us so completely he can accurately predict which path we will choose at various intersections of our lives. Or is it that because he is omnipresent, he is simultaneously in the past, present and future as we understand them, thus allowing him to literally "see" what we are up to then, now and later. (I know, wrapping your mind around that is a bit confusing, at least to me.)
In the book Living Life on Purpose, I read a chapter today that described this very tendency some believers have of applying the "traditional" slant of the concept that God has a plan for our lives. That slant, as the author describes it, is one of thinking I must change and morph to fit God's cookie-cutter plan for me. He says this is really not the way to embrace the concept that God has a plan for your life, primarily because it can create a great deal of anxiety as we second-guess ourselves and "place out fleece" in an attempt to understand THE one and only will for our lives that God has.
God's will is active and dynamic, not an inflexible slab of concrete.
I remember reading similar ideas many years ago, so many years ago that I can't even remember the name of the book, that God exercises both circumstantial will and ultimate will in the lives of his children. I'll give a simplistic example to explain what I mean. His ultimate will may be for me to buy an ice cream at Dairy Queen. However, in my silly attempts to make it to Dairy Queen, often turning this way and that, God exercises his circumstantial will. It's sort of like trying to get us back on course again; calling out to us from the road, if you will. The real beauty of circumstantial will is the utilitarian aspect of God, who will use every single event/occurrence in our lives to deepen our experience of him and fine tune our ability to live a life devoted to loving him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and loving our neighbor as ourselves.
Anyway, the author explains that is more important to focus on living a life that advances the will of God then to be, "it's all about me" and explode all our time and energy on "discovering" God's all-encompassing will for our life. (Does that make sense?)
The former requires that we pursue on-going connection with God, examine ourselves in light of this pursuit, and trust God to help us along in this process. The latter piles a great deal of pressure on us as we constantly break out into a sweat while contemplating, "Now what, God? Now what? Now what? Now what?"
The prophet Jeremiah quotes the Lord God as saying to his people, "For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11)
Surely, there are many ways of experiencing these "plans" as we point ourselves toward God each day on focus on advancing his will in the world, not just in our corner of the universe.