by Carolyn Custis James

      Although at times it unsettles us, the Bible sets our lives squarely within the parameters of God's reign. The details of women's lives are part of God's great plan. Most women don't see their lives in such bold terms. A lot of women live with a subterranean sense that God doesn't have a plan for them. If there is a plan at, it is only temporary and quickly discarded when "someone" comes along with a real plan.

      Yet we are called to run the race God has "marked out before us" (Heb. 12:1-2). David boils it down when he writes, "All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be" (Ps. l39:16).

      The implications are astonishing. Our lives are not haphazard journeys that evolve as we go along.

      For single women waiting for the plan to commence; for wives who believe God's plan for them is eclipsed by his plan for their husbands; for divorced or widowed women living with a deadening sense that unless they remarry, any plan God had for their lives is spoiled for good - God's sovereignty puts a woman back on the map of life. It reminds us that God has a unique plan for each woman. We are called not to sit on the sidelines but to be players, active contributors, to run the race he has marked out for us. If God is sovereign, then every day of our lives has meaning and purpose because God has planned it. We are not left in the wake of God's plan for someone else. No matter how intertwined our lives become with the lives of husbands, friends, and family members, God's plan for each of us is individual and personal.

      Those who believe that God has a plan for them sometimes encounter another problem -the conviction that they have lost God's best plan for them.

      We know the feeling. Somewhere along the line, we zigged when we should have zagged, and now we're hopelessly stuck with plan B.

       But if God is sovereign, then plan B is a myth. No matter how dark things look to us, or how big the mess we're in, we're in plan A. God's plan for us is intact, proceeding as he intended. Nothing - not our sins, failures, disappointments, bad decisions, nor the sins of others against us - can deter a sovereign God from accomplishing his good purposes in everything that happens in his world and in the lives of his children.

      There is a deep mystery here, to be sure. God's sovereignty doesn't answer all of our questions. But it gives women a framework from which to view their lives. It enables us to see life at its worst and know God is still on his throne. There's a net beneath us.

      Our comfort rests on other aspects of God's character along with his Son.

      God's character is revealed on every page of the Scriptures. But there is one place where we see him with unequaled clarity: the cross. Here, on the grand stage of human history, God bares his heart and spreads his goodness before us. Here love, sovereignty, goodness, and glory meet with cataclysmic force. It is at the cross that God defines himself and we come to know him.

      That is why it is so crucial for us to develop and test our beliefs about God within earshot of the dying cries of Jesus. At the foot of the cross, we begin to understand that God's plan, shaped and propelled by his love and goodness, even includes pain and tragedy.

       Our sufferings take us into deeper realms of God's character and enlarge our vision of him. I can't count the times I have heard women say after a time of painful struggle, "I wouldn't want to go through that again. But I wouldn't trade what I have learned about God."

      How often are those who speak most warmly of God's love and goodness to them the same ones we have watched endure unspeakable sufferings? They have seen more of God's glory in their pain than others can imagine in their comfort.

      Knowing God is the ultimate destination he has marked out for us.

    Carolyn Custis James lives in Orlando, Florida, with her husband, Frank James, professor of historical and systematic theology at RTS-Orlando, and their teenage daughter Allison. James holds an MA. in Biblical Studies and speaks regularly for Christian women's groups and conferences across the United States. This article is excerpted from her recent book, When Life and Beliefs Collide: How Knowing God Makes a Difference (Zondervan).

Reformed Quarterly, Volume 20, Number 4
© 2001 Reformed Theological Seminary
Articles may not be reprinted without permission.

Last updated 1-10-02.