I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you… I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon.
Philippians 2v19, 23-24
Paul writes his letter to the Philippians while under arrest — not a totally dissimilar situation to ours — but makes plans for his future in chapter two. I think two aspects of this are instructive for us when we think about how to plan in our present crisis.
The first is simply to note that Paul doesn’t have much, if any, control over his situation, but he still makes plans. He doesn’t know when he’ll be allowed outside again. He doesn’t know when he’ll be free to travel as he pleases again. He could just wait it out, and assess his options when the wind’s changed. Instead, he continues in hope. He hopes to send Timothy. He is even confident that he will be able to join as well. When faced with circumstances beyond his control and that no doubt frustrated his plans, Paul remains invested. Sure, he holds his plans loosely, and doesn’t really seem to mind which way things go (Phil. 1v20-26), but he doesn’t try to empty himself of any desires, or attempt to transcend ambition to reach some plane of disconnected zen bliss. We don’t need to either.
…in the Lord Jesus
What prevents Paul from violating James’ command to only say ‘if it is the Lord’s will…’? The fact that his hope is in the Lord Jesus. As long as the cosmos is still ruled by a God of both infinite power and immeasurable love, Christians have a duty of holy optimism. It’s the brighter flip-side of James’ warning. James in warning us against banking on our own self-sufficiency. Paul is modelling for us banking on Jesus’ reliability and goodness and working out the things we can’t know from there.
Do you have plans for the summer? Keep them in the diary. Pray that they’ll come to pass, but pray that you’ll be happy enough if they don’t. Paul, as far as we know, never did go to Philippi again, but I think we can assume that if he’s learned how to be content in all he’d been through before that, he could continue being content afterwards.