This post last updated on November 12th, 2021
Christians spend a lot of energy attributing words to God and misquoting Him on things He never said and the Bible just doesn’t teach.
These things are usually passed off with the best of intentions, generally to encourage someone or to equip a fellow believer, but many of us are just plain mistaken on the origin of these frequently used quotes that God never said, Jesus never taught, and the Bible doesn’t contain.
God Has a Plan
God has a plan. We usually pull this one out when we’re trying to comfort someone for some horrible thing that we just can’t explain. It’s well meaning but God has a plan for every bad turn in life is just not something we find in the Bible.
“God has a plan” is actually counter-productive because it normally comes off as “Sorry that terrible thing happened, but God has a plan,” and that, to the injured person just sounds like it was God’s plan that their child lost his life, or that their spouse left them, or that they just lost their job and now they’re preparing for homelessness.
That’s crappy advice, and something we should not attribute to God. I’m going to go so far as to say those things are not in God’s plan.
No, I’m going to take it a few steps further.
It’s not God’s plan that divorce happens, that tragic and untimely death hits us, or that people blow up suitcases in airports. To look at someone who has been affected by these or any other personal tragedy and tell them “God has a plan” is a sad attempt at providing counsel. And unfortunately, I’m guilty of this, too.
We need to know God and His Word better than that. So what does the Bible tell us about all of the horrible things in life? God did address the problems and the evil of life and He used Joseph to illustrate it for us.
Remember Joseph? His brothers jealously sold him as a slave and he found himself in an Egyptian prison after having been falsely accused of sexual advances on his master’s wife. Here’s a guy that could slap my face, and rightfully so, if I had said to him, “Hey Joseph, that all sucks, but God has a plan!”
In Genesis 50:15-20, we see that God did in fact have a purpose, and that’s far different than a plan. Look especially at verse 20. Joseph replied to his brothers after their reunion, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.“
That’s purpose. That’s God being active in Joseph’s life.
Everything for a Reason
Everything happens for a reason. This is so closely related to God has a plan that I almost lumped them together, but different enough that we need to address this one separately.
When you or I advise some hurting soul that their situation happened for a reason, we’re essentially saying, just as we do in God has a plan, that this disaster is God caused.
When this is our counsel, we’re going to have one nasty time trying to point them back to the cross, back to the loving arms of a God who does not plan evil and pain, but who comforts and loves us through the messes of life.
Paul writes in Romans 8:28 that for those who love God, everything works together for good. Don’t miss that disclaimer there: for those who love God. That’s not for the world. That’s for the believer.
And don’t copy and paste into this verse what is not being said. Paul isn’t telling us that because we follow Christ, only good things come our way.
R.A. Torrey called Romans 8:28 a “soft pillow for a tired heart.” That’s what Paul is saying, that in the middle of the trash and the junk and the muck and the pain of life, that God is still present, just as He was with Joseph in Egypt.
For the struggling pastor who is breaking over his addiction to porn, and the young mother who has just received the news of her stage 4 cancer, to the lonely single person hungry for marriage, to the family that just buried their son or daughter, God is still there.
I’m not going to understand every struggle you or I will be faced with, but I understand that God loves me and He loves you and we have one comfort to fall on when we need to.
He didn’t plan it, He doesn’t take pleasure in it, but He did promise to remain present with us.
“Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” Romans 8:26-28 The Message