“Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.'” (ESV – Read the chapter)
How do you make plans? How attached to those plans are you? What James offers here is a reminder that all of our plans must be made contingent on what the Lord has planned. All of them. We can strive for whatever we want, but nothing will happen that He does not allow for some reason. The question then becomes: What does God have planned?
This is a bigger topic than I want to try and tackle here, but there are a few things we can say briefly. First, throughout the Scriptures, while God clearly cares deeply about the details of our lives and nothing is insignificant to Him, His greater concern is with the big themes. In other words, His greater concern is not whether you go to the mountains or to the beach for vacation, but why you choose what you choose and what your intent for choosing is. His concern is why you chose to use the resources He’s given you the way you did and if your first concern was to honor Him.
Second, God’s plans are always for your blessing. But, your understanding of blessing and His might not be the same. For Him, blessing is you fully committed to Him and moving in His direction in spite of all obstacles to the contrary. For you, perhaps, blessing is more like an easy life, prosperity, and everything going your way. See the problem? Sometimes, in order to get you to His ideal of blessing, He has to take away yours entirely. In order to help you change your definition, He needs to help you see why yours wasn’t good in the first place.
Third, living with God’s plans in mind doesn’t mean not making any plans. It means holding them lightly. Holding plans lightly is a learned skill. It requires humility and patience. Those are skills learned better by practice than in theory. Neither will come without the help of the Spirit. It means learning to be flexible and receptive to what God might be doing around you. It means cultivating a habit of constant prayer so that you are always in a posture of listening.
So, make your plans and seek the Lord. And recognize that in seeking the Lord, you may have to throw all your plans out the window. But, if you do, rest assured that what God has planned is infinitely better than what you did. It may not be easier, but it will be better.