Why? Think of how many times you ask questions beginning with this word.
“Why was I so happy today?” “Why was our home so peaceful today and so chaotic yesterday?” “Why did I argue with my brother today?” “Why did I feel depressed last week?” Even behind these more immediate questions lurk deeper ones: “Why do I exist?” “What is the meaning of life?” Whether we are aware of it or not, questions like these arise in our hearts occasionally, inviting us to reflect on who we are and where we are heading.
Taking a Panoramic View. Common sense tells us that we can’t fully answer these deeper questions just by reacting to the everyday events that we encounter. Instead, they call us to develop a vision for our lives, to understand how we fit in this world. Deep down, we sense that we’ll never be able to attain this vision on our own. We sense that only God can provide the answers we need.
If left to our own devices, we would not naturally imagine God as someone who wants to be a part of our daily lives. The most common approach to life today tells us that we should look to God only in times of difficulty, such as severe sickness, family turmoil, or the death of a loved one. It’s only when we feel we have come to the end of our own resources that we begin to look beyond ourselves.
Yet Scripture tells us again and again that self-sufficiency is not God’s way. He wants to be a part of our lives all the time. He wants to be with us in our ups and our downs, our hopes and our dreams, and even our worries and frustrations.
One of the best ways to do this is by looking at God’s plan for creation and the way he has unfolded his plan over time. As you do, you’ll discover that we are part of this plan and that there can be no greater vision for our lives than one that places us in the heart of God’s own purposes and intentions for creation.
A simple sketch, or timeline, illustrates God’s plan—something we have called the “panorama.” This panorama highlights four major interventions of God in history—key moments in his plan to bring us closer to himself. These interventions are Creation, the Incarnation of Christ, Pentecost, and the Second Coming.
Looking at these four interventions shows us how deeply God wants to have a people especially set apart for himself. It also can help us build a stronger, more heavenly perspective for our lives. And with such a perspective, you’ll begin to see yourself not as part of a closed, finite system, but as part of the fulfillment of God’s eternal plan for all his people.
Creation. The first step is to fix our eyes on God the Father. He created the world and everything in it because he is love, and it is the nature of love to beget love. It is the nature of love to create a people upon whom this love can be lavished. So from the first moment of creation, it was God’s intention to have a people with whom he could share all the love that is part of his divine nature. From the very beginning, he wanted a people who would welcome him into their hearts and yield to him as he shaped them into his likeness.
This is why God created us, and it’s also why he gave each of us beautiful gifts and talents. Not only does he want us to see in them signs of his own creativity, strength, beauty, and holiness. He wants us to use these talents to build a world that reflects his glory, a world in which his plans could be furthered more and more.
Looking at creation in the light of God’s whole panorama focuses our attention on a loving Father whose plan for us far outlasts the limits of this world. The panorama helps us see our lives as God sees them—as a people whom he loves and has destined for eternal life with him.
The Incarnation. Our first parents fell into sin and separation. Now, in order for us to be lifted up as God intended, the power of this sin had to be destroyed, and the rift between God and his people had to be healed. God never stopped loving us: He remained committed to his original plan. In fact, he revealed the depths of his love in the most intimate way possible by sending Jesus his Son to save us.
Where we had disobeyed God, Jesus surrendered himself completely to the Father’s will (John 5:30; Luke 22:42). On the cross, he died to sin and ransomed us from the power of sin (Romans 6:10; 1 Peter 1:18-19). In his resurrection, he revealed his power over death. Once again, the way to God was opened.
Through the Incarnation, God made it clear that our sin didn’t deter him at all. He loved us too much to abandon us. By highlighting this central event of the cross, the panorama also helps us see how much Jesus loves us. And seeing his love poured out for us fills us with confidence and spurs us on to overcome sin.
Pentecost. Perhaps more than any other intervention by God, Pentecost highlights how deeply God wants to draw all people to himself and fill them with his love. That’s why, after he overcame the obstacle of sin, Jesus sent his Holy Spirit to fill our hearts (Acts 2:33; Romans 5:5).
Through the Spirit, every one of us can experience God’s personal, intimate love. It’s a transforming love, a love that empowers us not only to turn away from sin, but to continue to pursue the unfolding of God’s plan. It’s a love that compels us to make this world a clearer reflection of God’s beauty, justice, and peace. It’s a love that compels us to come together as one body in Christ—the Church—showing the world how deeply people can love one another when they are filled with his Spirit.
And so, day after day, year after year, God continues to advance his plan for his beloved creation. And the wonder of this plan is that each one of us has a vital part to play. Redeemed by Christ, filled with the Spirit, and united to one another in the Church, we all can contribute to the kingdom of God until the very day when Jesus comes again.
The Second Coming. God’s plan will not be fulfilled until the very end of time, when Jesus returns to establish a new heaven and earth. Then, God will be “all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28). Death will be destroyed. Poverty, war, and sickness will vanish forever. There will be no more hatred, abortion, murder, or abuse of any kind. God will wipe away every tear, and we will be completely filled with his life and love.
This is why everyone who knows the vitality of the Holy Spirit in their lives is moved to pray, “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20). Everything God ever intended for his people will come to fulfillment as God and his creation are united in an eternal, unbreakable bond of love.
Taste and See. Take some time this Lent to pray about the panorama. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you contemplate this view of God’s plan. He will lift you out of a limited, earthbound way of thinking, and bring you to a deeper knowledge of how much God wants us to experience his divine life in our everyday circumstances. And then, you will also begin to view the circumstances of your life as God views them.