God’s Perspective on Making Plans for Your Dreams

May 30, 2013

For the last couple years, I have been wondering, When a person has a purpose or something they want to accomplish, is it okay with God to make plans?

There are two familiar positions related to this question.

Some people say that it’s not okay to make plans for anything. Instead, you should be like a leaf floating in the wind. You let God take you wherever He wants. You don’t exert your will or your desires. You just are.

Others say that if anything good happens in life, it’s because you make it happen. After all, God won’t magically appear on your door step and offer you a new job, a new relationship, or a new life. He set the world into motion and then stepped back to watch it spin. Everything else is up to you.

I found something interesting in Scripture I never noticed before that addresses both of these positions.

Perspective from the Bible

James 4:13 says, “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, 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 and brag. All such boasting is evil.”’

To begin, we can throw Position No. 1 out the window that you don’t make any plans at all, that you don’t exert your will, your desires, or hope into any situation. Some people might think that is what this passage is saying.

It is not.

Notice it says, “Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will do this or that.’” God is saying, “It’s okay to have a ‘I’d like to do this or that’ in mind. It’s okay to verbalize it and make plans for it. But, in all of your expectations, remain flexible and let Me have the final say.”

There is no person who will suffer the disappointment and despair that comes from dashed expectations if they live with a plan in one hand, and surrender to God in the other.

Position No. 2, as I mentioned, says that you make things happen. That it’s all up to you. You are in the maker of your own destiny—you are your own god. I have one word for that: baloney! It’s pretty clear that according to James, you can make your plans, but God says yes or no.

Make Your Plans with God

The real truth is that control is an illusion. No one really has any. We don’t even control our own breath or how long we live. The person who assumes that they have control of their life is, as the Scripture says, boasting—and boasting is evil. It is opposed to the idea of being God dependent. Only God has total control—and because He loves us, we can trust Him with that control.

If you have a goal, a hope, or a dream, pray over it and if you feel that God is giving you the thumbs up and it’s not sinful, go for it! Make your plans. Dream your dreams. But always let God have the final word.


55 Comments to “God’s Perspective on Making Plans for Your Dreams”

  • Ernesto says:


  • Selina says:

    This is something I have often wondered about. Thank you for sharing God’s Word in a way that brings such clarification. I have read this scripture many times, so how did I miss this obvious meaning? May God continue to bless your writings!!

  • kisha says:

    Thank you Shana you always have a word in you that speaks to my spirit i always know your writing before your images display you are an amazing writer and may Gods hand continue to guide you in all you do.

    • Hi, Kisha.

      Thanks so much for your kind words. I am SO VERY glad that God is using what He places in my heart to speak to yours. Praise to His name!


  • victor says:

    Thanks Shana for this great message. Time after time I have struggled between my dreams and Gods purpose for my life. I have always wanted to be a Medical Doctor. I have good grades but in the end couldn’t pass the MCAT after five tries. Now am at a point where I really don’t know what to do. My wife wants me to give up my dreams and do something else with my life. She always says that after taking the exam (MCAT) five times, I don’t need God to tell me that being a doctor isn’t God’s purpose for me. I need God’s direction.

    • Hi, Victor.

      My heart goes out to you. I pray that God will give you peace and bring redemption to your situation. The great thing is, is that God IS directing you through the circumstance you described. I know He has great plans for you!

      Blessings to you!

      • Rick says:

        I don’t know the details of your situation, only God does. However, it’s been my experience that God can use a dream like yours to bring us down a path so far before opening our eyes to an alternative we didn’t anticipate.

        I went to seminary in hopes of becoming an Army Chaplain, wanting to serve troops in harms way. All the way through school that dream kept me going, helping me stay the course and keep up the pace so I could graduate and apply for the chaplain corps before I was too old. Two months before I graduated they reduced the age limit for applying to become a chaplain and I was not too old. Through some miraculous circumstances I was allowed to apply but was not selected, even though many thought I was a shoe-in.

        It was only then that recognized the possibility of parish ministry and the Lord opened the doors for me to pastor a small church in the Vail, CO area. It’s a beautiful place and, since I love to ski, a real dream come true. I realize now that the Lord used the carrot of my dream, becoming an Army Chaplain, to get me through seminary so I’d be prepared for the ministry He had for here in the Vail area.

        So, I think Shana’s suggestion of looking at different opportunities in the medical profession is a good one. Working in the profession may prepare you to pass the MCAT’s or you may find what the Lord always wanted for you, something else related to the medical field. Obviously a lot of prayer is needed to understand His will for you and to discern the path He has for you and your family, but I know He’s faithful to reveal them if we’ll seek Him.

        I pray God show’s you His will and you experience His peace as you travel the road He lays out for you.

        God Bless,

    • Lynn says:

      I think you should continue pursuing your dream. I am a lawyer, but had to take the bar exam 8 times. Perhaps while you’re working towards that goal,you could be doing something else in the medical profession. My struggle to pass the bar exam ultimately brought me closer to God and reminded me that in what seemed like my darkest hours, He was always beside me.

  • Tony says:

    Amen! I’ve learned some of this lesson the hard way. As a child I was taught I could do anything in life. Live the dream. At Marine Corps boot camp that was instilled in me. God has had to remind me all too often this lesson.
    Dream, work, but surrender to God!
    Thank you!

    • Hi, Tony.

      Thanks for your comment. It can definitely be a challenge surrendering to God when it comes to our dreams. If He is in it, we can acccomplish what He has called us to, but apart from Him, we can’t do anything of value. The great thing is that you can do all that He has called you to, and that’s a lot!


  • Shackera says:

    Can you expound upon this statement. I don’t want to interpret it incorrectly. There is no person who will suffer the disappointment and despair that comes from dashed expectations if they live with a plan in one hand, and surrender to God in the other.

    • Hi, Shackera.

      Sure. What I meant was that when we have expectations that aren’t surrendered to God, that we can experience big heartbreak and disappointment if God chooses to grant them. So, the best way to live is just the way that James indicates. You can make plans and dream dreams, but always hold them up to God as if they are His–because they are! Does that make sense?

      It’s a big balancing act of grappling with the desires that God gives us and still letting Him be in control of what happens with those desires. I think that it’s often a moment-by-moment surrendering that must happen, especially when it comes to issues and desires of the heart.

      Blessings to you,


  • Craig says:

    Life is a vapor according to James, as the desires and dreams should come to anyone who first seeks the kingdom of God/heaven . Until then, people should expect nothing and no approval from God to acomplish anything. What I am always frustrated with is the thorn in my life that I never ever asked to have, as for over 52 years now it’s been part of me, which maybe I could relate to Job, better than Paul because Paul only lived to be in his forties. With this always being a part of my life, there is no way any person with a sound mind would give me the same and equal chance to work for them, or even get treated the same way, by the same rules, because of their definition or what liability is. So as personal as it is to me, Proverbs says that …A successful man leaves his inheritence to his grandchildren. I see where that puts me, being single & no kids, much less grandkids. It is what it is, as I have done everything to eliminate and get rid of my condition. As Paul said,, To live is Christ, or to die, and to die is gain. That day can not come soon enough for me.

    • Hi, Craig.

      Thank you for your post. It’s a good point that you make that our dreams should always align with God’s will. The big challenge is that sometimes we don’t know which dreams He has placed in our hearts. In those cases, the desires we have may be His green light to go for that which we desire. Desire may be the way that He is moving us to act.

      I am so sorry that you have experienced a “thorn” as you mention. I can’t imagine how hard this has been. Some of our thorns are internal and some of them are external. We all have them, and no doubt they hurt–and sometimes a lot! My prayer is that whatever you are dealing with that God will comfort you and give you His peace and hope.

      When I read your note, I think of Paul, who should have been disqualified for his sin, but God used Him. I think of David, who made some horrible mistakes, but God used Him as well. I also think of others in the Bible, who, through none of their own doing experienced hardship, such as the Saints at the end of Hebrews 11. God still used them. Our promotion is in the hands of God, not in the hands of men. He raises one up and puts down another (Psalm 75:7). He has a place for you to use you to give you abundance that is internal. (John 3:16-19).

      I pray that the Lord will help you to dream about what you can do for Him in spite of the obstacles that are in front of you and what you don’t have. What has He placed in your hand that you can use? Everyone is holding something. Has he given you a mouth? Speak up! The ability to communicate? Write! Wisdom? Share it! Wisdom that has come from a difficult situation? Share it! A smile? Give it to someone. Be a light with what you have. Ask God to give you something to give from what you have been given. In this, there is joy.

      I am praying right now and asking God to help you live with joy before you go home to heaven.

      Blessings to you, Craig. Come back and see us again, okay?


  • emmy says:

    Wonderful message of encouragement! Thank you.

  • Barbara says:

    Was studying James 4 just this morning! Thank you for sharing your insight into this common question of making plans.

  • Christine says:

    As I was reading this I thought of Proverbs 16:9. “A man’s mind plans his way but God directs his steps and makes them sure.”. I am learning to listen to that “still, small voice” and I have found when I do, even though I may not feel 100% certain in my mind, it always turns out beautifully. I hope that Victor will find God’s plan in his life…I am sure He has something great for him to do!! Perhaps something Victor never thought of. We are so blessed to have God’s messages available to us through wonderful teachers like you. Thank you!

    • Hi, Christine.

      I love Proverbs 16:9. What a great verse. I have learned over time that even if I am wrong in hearing from the Lord, that He always gets me where I need to go. He will do the same for you.

      I’ll agree with you in prayer for Victor.

      Thank you for the encouraging words!


  • Jen says:

    SPOT ON! SHANA!! The Lord is working wonders through you my friend. I so enjoy reading Blueprints everyday.
    Keep on teaching his word you are reaching and healing/helping so many.
    Love, ya girl!

  • Kathy says:

    Wow! That was definitely God’s timing for me. I’ve wrestled with exactly this battle…at first pushing through with everything I had until God stopped me in my tracks with my physical health. He has taught me surrender through it. Now I sense Him nudging me to move ahead with HIS priorities first and my flesh is a little ‘gun-shy’ to try again….scared that it’s not going to work out. In the last paragraph, it seemed like the Holy Spirit highlighted ‘go for it’ as I read it. So here goes….dreaming and working towards God’s plan! “With man it is impossible but with God all things are possible.” Matt 19:26

    • Hi, Kathy.

      I totally understand your position. I have experienced the exact same thing after some of my dreams fell apart. It was God’s way to teach me to be more dependent on Him rather than forge ahead without consulting Him. I know, however, that if God is in something, nothing can stop His hand. So, here’s to your new adventure! Come back and let us know what happens, okay?


  • Kayla says:

    Thank you so much for this message, just what I needed to hear. I have been struggling lately with trying to not worry so much about what is going to happen and know that it is all in Gods hands.

    • Hi, Kayla.

      You are welcome. God has you covered. Praise Him out loud today for what He is doing in your life. Praise is an awesome antidote for worry!

      Bless you!

  • Cheryl says:

    How timely as usual! For several months I have been praying daily for me to do God’s will and know it is his will and not mine. My husband and I are wanting to retire to Florida. If it is God’s will I say it will happen but if not try as we might it won’t. So when others say I hear your moving to Florida, I say well we have put everything up for sale if it sells I will know it is God’s will and it will happen. And if it doesn’t it must not be God’s will. I have this faith that he will show me what I am suppose to be doing and where I am suppose to be doing it. It is such a relief knowing I am the co-pilot in my life. I am just not sure my husband feels the same he still thinks he is in control.
    Thanks for this I needed the reasurance I am doing God’s will.

    • Cheryl,

      What an exciting adventure that you are on, trusting God! I know a couple that retired to another state. They sold their belongings before they knew where God was leading them. He worked it out for them. Continue to trust. He will guide you!


  • Michael says:

    Make your plans, but leave the outcome in God’s hands. You hit the nail on the head with the hammer. We can pray, make plans, and ask God to direct us….but we need to leave the results in His hands.
    There is a popular teaching that teaches, you just need to declare it by faith, and it will happen. This heretical teaching makes you sovereign instead of God. And when your plans don’t come through, it is usually blamed on doubting or lack of faith.
    I think what James wrote is so much better.

    • Michael,

      Thanks for your comment. I completely agree with your sentiments. We can’t boss God around…and I have lived long enough to know that when I demand that I steer my own life, I usually make a mess!

      I have met many people at the conferences where I speak who feel that God has bertrayed them for the very reasons you mention.

      Thank you for the comment.


  • Elisabeth says:

    Thank you for your post,Shana. It’s a great reminder,since sometimes we struggle with surrendering our plans before we rush right into them without asking God what He thinks. Jeremiah 29:11,He knows the plans He has for us.

    Blessings to you!

    • Hi, Elisabeth.

      You are so welcome. It is a struggle sometimes. I was recently reminded that from the moment sin entered the world, it created the condition in humans to behave like orphans. Our relationship of total dependence was broken between us and God. This reminds me why we often have a difficult time letting go.

      I pray that you will have an increased sense of His peace today.

      Blessings to you!

  • Jose says:

    Thank you for this great post…I am currently struggling with this specific situation. I’m wanting to start my own business and my wife wants to home school and we are praying and making all these plans and I was wondering if maybe we are getting ahead of ourselves….but this was a great post…Thanks…!!!

  • Loretta says:

    I look forward to receiving my blueprint for life email every morning! It is insightful and inspirational. I have been enlightened and touched by all of the messages. I smile often identifying with a lot of the content. I especially felt like today’s message was for me. I was laid off last year from a job that I dedicated myself to for 11 years. It was extremely stressful and days before I was let go, I took a walk on the beach and prayed ” God, I am so stressed and unhappy. I am not sure if this is what you want me to do and I am not sure if I can continue.” I loved my job for most of the 11 years but in the last 2 years it was affecting my health. Little did I know that in a few days I would lose my job. At that moment, I was completely devastated and had no idea how profound my prayer just a few days earlier would be. I am single and made a very good salary so my income was suddenly gone and no one to help me. I also contributed to my children and my Mother’s support. In the midst of all this, I was between surgeries so the timing in my mind was not ideal. After I was able to see and think clearly, I knew it was God’s blessing in disguise. He is always in control and his plans are always best. Last year was a tough year, the loss of my job, a dear friend’s mother lost her battle with lung cancer, my children’s father had a sudden heart attack. I was able to be there for my friend and for my children at a time when they needed me most. I would have been there anyway but was able to devote more time with them since I wasn’t working. God has provided for me financially and it is a miracle considering the income that I lost as a result of my lay off. I share this as a testimony of my faith and for those that might be struggling or experiencing similar circumstances. I am grateful for God’s love and mercy. Please keep me in your prayers as I trust and wait for his will and guidance for the next chapter in my life. God is good! All the time! God Bless you, the other contributors of blueprint for life and your followers.

    • Loretta,

      What a fabulous story of God’s faithfulness. I know that it will touch many. Even though you have gone through a lot, you are grateful, shining Jesus’ light. I know that your faith pleases Him!

      I also know what it’s like for God to provide in very difficult circumstances. I so wish that I would have written down all the ways He was faithful. If you haven’t, I encourage you to do so. It will encourage you later when you need the encouragement.


  • Ted says:

    Thanks for this insight. As an entrepreneur I have often wrestled with the right directions during times of moving forward with a new venture. When you begin something in faith it is often hard to know, as you disembark on the journey, whether your path is true. Is this the right move? Is this what God wants me to do?

    The advice I got from a faithful friend was that he observed in his endeavors that during times of discouragement or lack of progress he continued to push on confident that when God does not align with our plans he will slam the door closed. He had experienced that when God wants us to stop he make it clear. Loudly and sometimes painfully. When he wants us to persevere he whispers. Whispering and nudging forces us to listen to God, draw him closer to us and be faithful to his prompts. Success in this fashion enables us to take claim for the perseverance, faithfulness and the success knowing it was under the eyes of our faithful father.

    Like most people acknowledge achievement from someone who loves you is 10X more valuable than any other acknowledgement.

    • Awesome words, Ted. I have experienced the very things your friend described. It can be difficult to know the way to go, but God is faithful to guide. Thank you for such wise words.



  • Clara says:

    I really needed this. Thank you so much.

  • Christina says:

    Whenever you post something it ALWAYS matches up to where I am in life. God uses you in awesome ways. I just read James today because that is where I felt God leading me to…and I went on my email and saw this devotional and BAM…james! I just finished my last day of Senior yr in high school and this was perfect to read during this time of my life.

    • Hi, Christina!

      Congratulations on graduating. That is wonderful. I am excited about what the Lord has planned for you. And, I am so glad that the devotionals are speaking to you. That thrills me as I have a heart for young women.

      Keep coming back!

      Blessings to you!

  • LaKeshia says:

    I can’t thank you enough for this message! I got chills reading it. Hallelujah!! Our God is Awesome! Thanks for your message.

  • John says:

    Thank you for the word of the LORD ! I used to say all the time, If God willing, Then it will be. Thanks for the reminder, May the good LORD bless you in his word.

  • Diana says:

    I loved it! Thank you, it was well written!

  • Shackera says:

    yes thank you Shana

  • Monica says:

    All I can say is, thank you!

  • Candice says:

    Thank you for leading me to this blog. I greatly appreciate it. Where does someone start with making plans with God in mind? I’m currently unemployed and it seems as if with every step I take no doors have opened. I’m not even sure what I’m supposed to do with my life. At 27, I really do want to do what God called me to do but I’m still unsure of what that is. I have so many other voices/opinions in my head about what I should do with my life that I’m completely at a loss of what direction to take. I believe God desires to show me the way in which to go but I haven’t heard anything as of late. I don’t want to be frustrated but I’m not sure where the silver lining is in this season. What do you do if everything you’ve been doing hasn’t worked? Please keep me in prayer. Thanks for taking the time to read my comment.

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