By: Dennis Bates
I should be coming back all refreshed and full of energy after nearly a month off. After all, there was a two week stint at our favorite Florida beach in the middle, right?
Well, not exactly.
As Robert Burns wrote: “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men Gang aft agley, An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain, for promised joy!” Robert was a Scot, so he talked funny, even in his day. Having Scottish ancestry myself, I rather like it, however.
The modern English version would be roughly: The best laid plans of mice and men go often astray, and leave us nothing but grief and pain instead of the joy we expected. Not nearly as poetic or effective in my opinion, but maybe that’s just me. I’m a bit old school.
The point of this digression is that two days before we were supposed to leave for the beach, I developed a bad case of celluitis in my left leg and all our plans changed. I’ve spent most of the last month on antibiotics with my legs up. There is one spot on my shin that is still red and puffy, although it doesn’t hurt anymore. But the closest I’ve been to a beach is the travel brochures I receive from the University of Iowa Alumni Association.
To put it mildly, it has not been a fun time, and I wouldn’t wish this type of infection on anybody. I ran a fever of nearly 102 for several days and the pain was just this side of unbearable. Talk about grief and pain instead of Joy! I understand.
I don’t bring that whole experience up to beg for your sympathy, although all donations would be cheerfully accepted. I’ve always been something of a toddler when it comes to pain and being sick. Just ask my wife, who doesn’t have a degree in nursing, but plays one around our house all the time when I’m under the weather.
However, I actually bring my unpleasant experience up to underscore how quickly things can change, how little we actually control them, and how totally and completely in charge God is over all things. Even when I take my vacation.
James says in chapter 4 we don’t even know what will happen tomorrow in our lives. He likens our lives to a mist that appears for a little while and then disappears as he warns us not to boast about our future plans. and then he says at verse 15: “Instead you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will do this or that.’”
James isn’t saying that the use of those words is some sort of mysterious incantation that makes everything work in some sort of mystical way. He’s saying simply that God is in charge of everything and we should acknowledge that even in our smallest plans. So when we plan, we should keep that in mind, and be ready to alter those plans when God’s are different.
As Burns said, the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray. God’s never do.