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. So, whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. (James 4:13-17)
Most of the time we feel like we’re in control of things. We make plans and schedules about how life should go. The reality, though, is only God knows what will happen. We can debate politically whether businesses and gatherings should be open or closed. Should each be allowed to decide on their own or should government officials mandate that? However, God reminds us that we are relatively minor, and our plans are fragile.
That’s difficult to accept because when we talk about businesses, we’re talking about wages and bills, about companies and people being able to survive and stay afloat. There’s a lot of uncertainty. I’m extremely grateful both my wife and I can still work and haven’t lost our incomes. I know people who have been furloughed or lost work and pay. To be in that position must be frustrating and painful.
Yet just because things are hard, or we don’t like our circumstances doesn’t mean we get to toss out what God’s word tells us. We can plan and schedule, I don’t think James is saying that part is sinful. But the assumption that things will prosper for us or go exactly as we think they could and should and must—trusting ourselves and our deserving, that’s where we need to be careful about sin. We must heed the call to do good as we’re able. We must trust God before and when and after things happen—whether they go as hoped or fall flat in our estimation.
Let’s go one step further, though. Are we able to pray that the Lord’s will be done and have that mean, “God, continue this crisis until you accomplish your purposes for your glory”? We all want COVID-19 to be done. God did not create humanity hoping for us to get sick and experience death. It’s painful to see people get sick and die near or far. It’s hard to lose financial security or be unable to pay for needs ourselves. But do you trust God enough that you are able and willing to pray like Jesus, “…Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…” (Matthew 6:10), and have it mean, “…Not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39)?