The Psychology of God's Plan for You

The Psychology of God's Plan for You
Photo by I.am_nah / Unsplash
God has a plan for your life, and it's way more of an adventure than you realise.

"What do you want me to do, God?" - I have found myself waving my fist at God more times than I'd like to admit, wondering when the divine plan would finally fall in my jaded lap. We've all sat around the circle while Jeremiah 29:11 is repeated an ungodly amount of times as a favourite verse. It's borderline nefarious how no one ever correctly contextualises that verse for children, as if because it's a sweet maxim, we ought to leave it alone. In reality, I fail to see its innocence, and I have struggled my entire life trying to understand the juxtaposition of my own ability and the will of God. If my destiny is mapped sans creation, where does my ability, will, passions, and talents fit within the equation?

Early on my journey into adulthood, I found graceful solace in a quote by Spurgeon, who said that "when my will becomes His will, I have found my will." This allowed me to hold the hand of God while walking. I never wanted to be carried in the sand, as if my footprints don't matter, as if my abilities were only ever a byproduct of control to inevitably be carried by Him nonetheless. It provided enduring stability for my faith that gave me the theological permission to explore my potential. I say theological because, for the most part, this is how all Christians live, only without justification. As I have matured and collected knowledge along the way, I've been better able to buttress this argument empirically. As useful as an axiom may be, it needs to have legs to be of any use.

Within cognitive psychology, there are four general levels of knowing. The first is propositional, that is, through stated facts; the second is perspectival, that is, through your personal perspective; the third is procedural, that is, in an embodied engagement with the world; the fourth is participatory, that is, through a relationship with the world. In retrospect, these levels may seem banal, but that takes for granted how we once thought we subjectively came to know about the world. Prior to the cognitive science revolution of the 1950s, scientists and philosophers believed that humans came to know that world objectively. You look into the world and construct it from what it "is", then form hierarchies and taxonomies to categorise and understand it. This would be a propositional way of apprehending the world - through objectively stating facts. In reality, this couldn't be further from the truth concerning the qualia of experience. You come to know the world in quite the opposite way - through a relationship with it.

Think about the difference between a bowl and a cup. Both are generally distinguishable in that you know a cup when you see it, yet they're nearly impossible to define. Where does a cup end and a bowl start? A bowl is merely a flattened cup, so why the distinction? If you pay attention, you'll realise that the distinction is more about the telos - purpose - of the objects than any kind of definitive fact. Their differences are in the purposes we give them as we engage with them. A cup is defined via an affordance - a purposive shape that fits our hand - making it the perfect receptacle to drink liquids. You can't hold a bowl like a cup, as it doesn't afford that property, so it's not defined as such. The difference is in the purpose. If human beings didn't exist, would cups exist? Maybe, but would the handles on mugs exist? They exist for a purpose. We engage in a relationship with the cup and participate with it to support a purpose.

We can extend this to the natural world by understanding the cognitive psychology behind fear. If we only saw the world propositionally and objectively, when we came to a cliff, all we would see is a rock face extending beyond the horizontal plane. That's not helpful to ensure you don't fall off and die. Instead, scientists have discovered that when you come near a cliff, what you see is a falling off place, not a rock face, thus providing the impetus for fear that keeps you away from the edge. You implicitly form a relationship with the cliff, this seemingly dead place, and that relationship gives rise to meaning. This meaning gives rise to hierarchy, allowing you to navigate the world appropriately. It isn't you and the object; it's a relationship between the qualia of your experience and the object. This is how you, the human being, come to know the world, not through the stiff rules of propositional objectively like science - which ironically is not really true at all - but rather through a top-down process from qualia to consciousness to relationship and so on.

When you conceptualise your own relationship with God, this is the correct pattern. It isn't unidirectional, it isn't dictatorial, it isn't predestined, it isn't objective.

It is relational.

It is as Spurgeon stated. When you engage with love - God - that love changes you. Literally. Carl Jung noted this phenomenon. Although our beliefs inform our behaviour, equally, our behaviour changes who we are at an unbelievably deep level. What you do isn't simply a byproduct of belief, but an everchanging landscape of relationship where both ends define and refine each other. This is not to say that we in any way affect God, but that when you engage with love for other people, in love for yourself, in love for the environment, in love for your talents, that is, the selfless giving in to all these things, you will have found God's plan for you.

Read that last paragraph again.

God does have a plan for your life - to return to love. And in returning to that central space where all being flows, be changed into embodied love. Embodied, not in an automaton, but in you, my friend. Do you want to know the will of God? Go love, and watch how everything in your life becomes clear as you participate in the world.