“We plan and God laughs” is identified as a Yiddish proverb, the title of a book or two and the headline of multiple online articles meant to help people navigate periods in life when personal plans seem to disintegrate in front of our eyes. When we hear or read the proverb, it can be difficult not to nod along, especially when the phrase encapsulates something most of us have experienced: a perfected resume or proposal sent, but no word back; a flawless itinerary dissolved by the smallest delay; an event set to begin, upended by a storm; a setback or an entirely “new normal.”
As much as we might nod along, or wince at our own experience, the proverb points us in the other direction, too. And if not the proverb, Scripture certainly does.
In the Book of Jeremiah, the tone and task are predominantly focused on God’s judgment, but then Jeremiah shares the statement: “I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans … to give you a future with hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). These words were sent by the prophet Jeremiah to the Israelites who had been taken into Babylonian exile. These striking, comforting words reminded them that, despite their experience of the present, God’s gesture, thoughts and plans for them — and for us — are peaceful, abundant and hopeful. “We plan and God laughs”? Perhaps. But it is just as possible that “we plan, and God imagines a future with so much more.”Continue reading