“A person’s steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand their own way?” Proverbs 20:24, NIV
One of the commonly accepted truths of today’s world is: “You can do anything you want to do.” This stems from a belief that each of us is in control of our own destiny and that we exercise this control by the choices we make. In reality, this can be a dangerous belief that lends itself to a lot of unhealthy and unspiritual pride. And frequently, it leads to great disappointment or even despair.
The Bible calls us to humility as we consider our plans for the future. We can make certain choices about what's next in our lives. But the outcome is never guaranteed. God is God and we are not.
James, the brother of Jesus, writes in his New Testament letter: "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 and 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 in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil." James 4:13-16, NIV
Rather than over-confidence in the power of our own choices to create a future for ourselves, a better approach is to understand that while our choices and decisions do make a difference, the one ultimately in control of outcomes is God.
This means that, like Job, we may make many good choices and still experience pain and suffering. And the opposite is also true. God’s mercy and grace are far beyond our grasp, and despite the fact that we make many sinful choices, he continues to love and forgive us beyond measure and beyond understanding.
For that reason, there’s great peace in simply accepting that the outcome of our lives is much more in God's gracious hands than our own.