Goodbye 2015. Hello 2016. It is a new year and that means reflecting on the year that was, planning the year ahead and refreshing our wall calendars. At no other time is mankind more reflective and purposeful than at the moment the clock strikes twelve on December 31st. Whether it takes the form of a goal or a resolution, we devise plans we fully intend to see through to completion. To this I say, “Deo Volente.”
I know what you are thinking, “I don’t speak Latin so you lost me.” Not to worry, you will not need a degree in Latin to understand it’s meaning. However, you will have to read James if you want to truly embrace Deo Volente.
13 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” 14 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. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.
Upon first look one might think James is opposed to forward planning. Well, don’t throw out your goals and resolutions for 2016 just yet. James isn’t saying you shouldn’t set goals or make resolutions, but he is pointing out the folly of leaving God out of your future plans. In one verse (vs 14) he dismantles the idea that we actually have the power to know and control our future. What does the mist know of prevailing wind patterns? It knows nothing, and that is his point. The mist says, “I am going to go east” but the winds from the south promptly disperse the mist and carry it north. If James stopped here we might have reason to be a little bit discouraged. Good thing he doesn’t stop there.
In verse 15 James puts things into perspective. “Instead you ought to say, ’If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’” James is reminding us that God is ultimately in control. And this is why I said Deo Volente.
Deo Volente is Latin for God willing. In times past it wasn’t unusual for people to add the letters D.V. (abbreviation for Deo Volente) following any statement of future plans. Back then when you received the annual year in review letter from aunt Jane you might read, “We are planning on spending the summer with the kids. D.V.” The custom even translated into casual conversation. If you ended any statement with D.V. it was understood that you meant, “as long as nothing prevents.”
The practice of saying Deo Volente has pretty much all but disappeared from common usage. Why did it disappear? Mostly because Latin is no longer generally spoken or understood, which is understandable. However, it also likely disappeared because it had turned into a pious tradition, which is very sad. The first reason speaks to the changing times, the second speaks to man’s unchanged heart. Regardless, it is a custom I would love to see again.
Genuinely saying Deo Volente (or God willing) reveals an attitude of humble dependence on God. A dependence upon Him even in times of uncertainty. Not that we are uncertain of the final outcome, but rather uncertain from the standpoint we are not the ones in control. I love how Proverbs 16:9 puts it:
The heart of man plans his way,
but the LORD establishes his steps.
Therefore, as you enter 2016 with a new set of goals and resolutions, be sure to not leave God out of all your planning. Understand He is the one who is in control and He is the one who establishes your steps. Adopt an attitude of humble dependence, and as James suggests, let this humility be evident in your speech. I will attempt to do the same. D. V.