Just over a week ago, at the soaring peaks of my anxiety about the (still-ambiguous shape of my) upcoming summer, an article on Desiring God (by John Piper), "Your Life Is a Mist" popped up. "Indeed," I thought, and clicked on it. The article looks at James 4:13-16 :
Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit"— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that." As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.
An updated version of James 4:13, at least for us, might look like "Next year I will go back to the US, spend half a year there, get my degree, perhaps apply for a master's" or "When I go back to Singapore, I will train hard and try to make the X or Y sports team". There are many ways in which we speak like James 4:13. Throughout our university life, we think we exist more than we ever have, in the future tense. We plan courses, trips, careers; we dream big, toy with ambition, set goals. We use the phrases, "I will", "I shall", "I think I am going to". Despite the anxiety and uncertainty that these aspirations bring, we are perhaps happier, more hopeful, in the future tense.
Yet, there is a quiet arrogance in the way we speak and think about the future. We get too confident in our abilities to make things happen. We also get caught up in the excitement of these grand plans and the busyness that working towards them entails. In all our earnest strivings, we forget God. Plans in general, are good, but plans without God at their beginning, centre and end— plans made apart from God—are deeply dangerous. As James points out, we ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that." Reading and praying over James 4 again, I found myself slowly releasing the tight death grip I had over my summer, and stopped trying to force fruit out of it on my own. Peace washed over me, knowing that the Lord is surely and faithfully working in this season of uncertainty, and that beyond this, He holds our summers, empty calendars, post-graduation life and all of eternity in His loving hands.
Recognising God's sovereignty has been incredibly freeing, knowing that His will is in both the providence and the lack. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths." (Pro 3:5-6) The uncertain mist of the future is now replaced by the certain pillar of cloud and fire, which goes before us and never departs (Exo 13:21-22), promising us precious freedom and boundless peace.