God’s Good Plans for You: An Interview with Megan Fate Marshman
What does it mean when the Bible says God’s plan for your life is to give you a hope and a future? Can you know his plan? Can you trust it? What is active dependence on God? What is God’s definition of good?
Bible Gateway interviewed Megan Fate Marshman (@meganfate and @meganfate) about her book, Meant for Good: The Adventure of Trusting God and His Plans for You (Zondervan, 2020).
Meant for Good examines the Bible verse Jeremiah 29:11, which is a consistent favorite verse for Bible Gateway users. What is the meaning of this verse and the verses that follow? How is God inviting us to practically trust him through Jeremiah 29?
Megan Fate Marshman: While Jeremiah’s words were written to a specific people at a specific time, this timeless truth stands: God knows the plans he has for all people. The verses that follow Jeremiah 29:11 are God’s invitation for us to trust him and his plans, all in his timing. Not only does God invite us to trust him, but he also specifies how. Jeremiah 29:11–14 provide us with what we need to develop a trusting relationship with God.
What do you say to people who have a difficult time trusting God’s plans?
Megan Fate Marshman: God knows the plans he has for your life, and while he may not plan on telling them to you ahead of time, we can know something about the plans. They’re meant for good. While I don’t know your life, and it might be hard to believe that a God with good intentions would plan each part of the life you’ve lived, I get it. But what if God’s definition of good is different than ours?
When I tell you God’s plans are meant for good, I’m not talking about the Americanized definition of good: comfortable, easy, and successful. I’m talking about the good described in Romans 8:28 (emphasis added): “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” In the next verse, Paul tells us what he means by good: “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29a, emphasis added). While only God knows the plans, we can know something about his intent for every part of them. He plans to use all things for good. God wants to use the messy, the wonderful, the confusing, the painful, and even that one part of your life, to transform you more into the image of his Son.
How can God transform us more into the image of his Son?
Megan Fate Marshman: If God’s good plan is to make us more like Jesus, then we must expect trials. After all, Jesus’ life is marked by trials. I can’t picture a comfortable way to carry a cross, but that’s exactly what Jesus did. And he asks us to do the same. We must, therefore, accept trials instead of run from them. Thankfully, we can know from Jesus’ life that there’s purpose to our pain. God doesn’t waste anything, including suffering. He doesn’t always remove us from trials because he plans to use them.
God didn’t rescue Noah by stopping the flood; God kept him safe in the midst of the waves. God didn’t save Daniel from the lions’ den; he protected him with the beasts at his side. God didn’t save Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from going into a fire; he saved them in the midst of the flames. And do you remember their faith-filled words in Daniel 3:17–18? After they proclaimed, “God is able,” Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego said these two words: “Even if.” Even if God didn’t do what they wanted (to be rescued from fire), they chose to trust God’s plans. Wow. Even though God is able, we can trust him even if he doesn’t. Mike Foster once wrote that while “even if” statements breed faith, “What if?” questions breed fear. Even if God’s plans for your life are not what you hoped for, learning to trust God is part of his good plan.
God’s not saving us from trials; he’s wanting to transform us through them. I don’t just know this from Scripture; I know this from my own life. God has used my failures to make me dependent upon my heavenly Father. He’s used rejection to make me full of grace and truth. He’s used my lack of control to form me into a prayer warrior. And, friend, he wants to use what you’re going through too. So, let me ask you, how might God use what you’re going through to form you more into the likeness of Jesus?
God uses all things. He even redeems suffering. God wants to take your pain and heartache, and transform you through it. He wants to use it for his glory and for your good, to make you more like Jesus for your sake and the sake of the world. Because guess what our world needs? You got it, our world needs Jesus. And guess what God’s good plan for our world may be? A transformed you.
You write that biblical hope in Jeremiah 29:11 offers the exact opposite of anxiety; that it offers a secure future. How can this hope transform our lives even as we’re living through some very unsettling times?
Megan Fate Marshman: The biblical definition of hope is different than the colloquial definition. When you say something like, “I sure hope this happens,” you frame hope as an uncertainty. Hope means that it sounds great, but it’s unlikely. Biblical hope, on the other hand, is a certainty about something that has not happened yet.
If we limit ourselves to our flimsy definition of hope, we could be left hoping for the Cubs to win the World Series or hoping we’ll make it to the gas station even though we’ve been driving with the empty light on for far too long. Both would be pretty fantastic, but you better not bet on them. Far too many people find themselves living in insecurity especially in these uncertain times because their hope is unsure. They’re left waiting on “what ifs.” So many people are drowning in anxiety because they’re not practicing real hope.
Biblical hope offers the exact opposite of anxiety: a secure future. If our future is secure, we have a new perspective on and approach to the present. Instead of using the present to attempt to control an uncertain future, we’re free to engage the present. Hope transforms the present.
In his “I Have a Dream” speech, Dr. King explicitly says, “This is our hope,” and then describes what comes to pass when we have hope in the Lord and not in circumstances: “With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.” Dr. King found hope in the promises and person of Christ. Notice though, Dr. King does talk about circumstances. His biblical hope (confidence in what will come) informs his hopes (desires for the future), which inform his actions in the present. Dr. King’s hopes and dreams, therefore, are not merely inspirational, they’re biblical.
And with a biblical foundation of hope, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. dreams: We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and the Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no . . . we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.
Dr. King was referencing our biblical hope found in Amos 5:24: “But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” Dr. King got specific with what the future could look like when his secure hope breaks into his broken context. We can do the same. This is the power of hope. God’s promise for reconciliation broke into Dr. King’s dreams, and the result was a specific picture of what was possible for tomorrow.
So let me ask you, how might your hope for the future break into the messy realities you’re facing today? Does God’s promise of a future without fear invade your anxiety? How might God’s promise of reconciliation invade your broken relationships? I can tell you this, if you let him, God’s promises for the future can invade your dreams and paint pictures of purpose for your life. While hope may not immediately alter our circumstances, having hope alters us. You too can have a dream.
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What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?
Megan Fate Marshman: One of my favorite passages is Acts 1:1. In it, the author Luke says that in his former book (the Gospel of Luke), “I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach” (emphasis added). Luke is saying that the book he’s currently writing, the book of Acts, tells us about what Jesus will continue to do. But wait, didn’t Jesus ascend into heaven in the first chapter of Acts? He did. Luke is implying that the book of Acts records what Jesus is continuing to do through his disciples, which includes us.
What’s Jesus up to in your workplace? Well, if Jesus dwells within you by his Spirit, then I can ask, what are you up to in your workplace? What you’re up to is what he’s up to. What’s Jesus up to in your broken family? Well, what are you up to in your broken family? Have you ever witnessed an injustice in the world and shaken your fist at God screaming, “What are you doing about this?” What if what God was doing about the injustices in the world was making us more aware of them? If you’re asking, “What is God up to?” follow that up with “What am I up to?” Maybe what you’re up to is precisely what he’s up to, through you. What you do matters!
What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App and Bible Audio App?
Megan Fate Marshman: Not only has Bible Gateway made God’s Word easily accessible, it’s provided a way for people to discover God’s truth in Google searches, hear his Word on car rides, and creatively share Scripture with others.
Meant for Good is published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., the parent company of Bible Gateway.
Bio: Megan Fate Marshman loves God and His church. She is a teaching pastor at Willow Creek Community Church, speaks to audiences internationally, leads the women’s ministry at Arbor Road Church, and serves as director of women’s ministries at Hume Lake Christian Camps. She recently released her newest book Meant for Good and Bible study curriculum. She currently lives in southern California with her family. You can also find out more about Megan Fate Marshman by visiting meganfate.com or by following her on Instagram.
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