I’m a planner. And recently, I confirmed that I do, in fact, come by it honestly. This Christmas, I bustled in the kitchen alongside my mom and sisters, aunts and cousins, and had to laugh as I participated in and overheard endless conversations about the plans while we all prepared for the next thing on the agenda (and there definitely was an agenda!).
Who, when, where, and what’s next—these are questions that rattle in my brain constantly, and my kids have inherited this trait as well. The problem is that our tendency towards planning didn’t come with a corresponding propensity to be flexible. I learned early on in motherhood not to share plans with my children too early or in too much detail. I couldn’t handle their questions leading up to the event, endless suggestions on what the details should be, and devastation when plans changed.
As my kids have gotten older, it’s become more necessary for me to bring them into the plan-making. And I’ve come to see that the disappointment of changed plans is a fact of life, and I might as well stop shielding them so we can weather those disappointments together. But as I share our plans, I’ve found two words to be incredibly helpful: “Lord willing.”
Here are three reasons I think you should add them to your vocabulary, too:
1. Saying “Lord willing” can be an act of humility.
James 4:13–17 says,
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
James isn’t giving us a legalistic rule to follow; he’s giving us a principle. It’s not about the words we say, but about the posture of our hearts. Are we arrogantly going about our days as if we have the power to control them? Or are we living as finite creatures humbled before a Creator who has ordered our days and appointed our moments? I know I’m prone to the former.
Saying “Lord willing”—whether out loud or in our hearts—is an act of humility. We bend before our maker, trusting that we don’t know what tomorrow will bring, and ultimately, his ways are higher than our ways (Isa. 55:8–9). We make our plans with open hands, dependent upon the Lord and trusting him to do what he wills.
2. Saying “Lord willing” can be a reminder.
We’ve all learned in big and small ways these past couple of years how fragile our plans can be. When The Atlantic told us to “Cancel Everything,” I had no idea it was the beginning of a devastating cascade of Xs on my calendar that would stretch on for months into years. No more trips, speaking engagements, or retreats. No visit from my parents to help with the kids on their spring break. No plays, dance recitals, or class trips. Canceled, canceled, canceled.
Now, as the grief has mostly subsided, I see that, in some small way, all these cancellations served as a helpful reminder.
When I say, “Lord willing,” it’s like writing my plans on the calendar with a pencil. It reminds me (and my children) that, as much as we want something to happen, things may not go as we hoped. Instead, as we make our plans, we ought to do so knowing that “the heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (Prov. 16:9).
And when the Lord doesn’t establish our steps, we’ve already reminded our hearts that it’s up to him. It prepares us to receive both his confirmations and cancellations as gifts from his good and wise hand.
3. Saying “Lord willing” can be a prayer.
Before he went to the cross, Jesus prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).
I recognize that my dinner plans and family vacations are a far cry from the turmoil awaiting Jesus at the cross; nonetheless, he compassionately hears my echoed prayer as I utter the words, “Lord willing.”
When I say, “Lord willing,” I join the Spirit in praying according to God’s will (Rom. 8:27). I make my plans, casting my cares upon the Lord, believing that he cares for me (1 Pet. 5:7). I ask the Lord to establish the work of my hands (Ps. 90:17), while also submitting to the good works he’s appointed for me, knowing they might supersede my plans (Eph. 2:10).
When we say, “Lord willing,” we pray what the hymn calls, “the prayer oft mixed with tears before”: “Thy will be done.”
A Practice of Faith
I confess I feel abundantly cheesy when I say, “Lord willing.” I’ve only ever known the sweet, super spiritual old ladies who say it, and I’m not particularly sweet, super spiritual, or (as far as I see it) old. The words often make my kids roll their eyes, and sometimes they don’t make their way down to my own heart. But it’s become a practice of faith these past years, helping to orient my posture before the Lord as I hold my calendar too tightly.
As we fill the calendars of a new year, let’s do so with open hands and these words on our lips: “Lord willing.”