What determines one’s fate or destiny? Throughout the ages, this topic has been a common subject of meditations, debates, as well as art and literary masterpieces. Although destiny and fate are often used interchangeably, fate usually refers to the predetermined order of events. Destiny frequently has a more positive connotation and refers to the sum of all events over the course of a person’s life. In Greek mythology, fate was personified by mystical beings called moirai who spin the threads of human destiny. Moirai represented the idea that human fate was dictated by unknown cosmic forces apathetic to human experience of joy, pain, or suffering. According to this philosophy, it doesn’t really matter how people act in their lives because they cannot outsmart their fate – whatever is meant to happen, will happen. On the other hand, Existentialism, represented by Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Friedrich Nietzsche, and others, denies any existence of fate whatsoever and asserts that human free will is the principal agent that determines one’s destiny (https://www.iep.utm.edu/existent/). According to that perspective, life is random and humans assign to it their own meaning and purpose. Thus, one’s destiny is the product of his or her personal choices and probabilities of events. Another school of philosophy takes a position in the middle and affirms that both fate and free will are key players in one’s destiny. Its proponents believe that we create our own destiny by being attentive to our intuition or the “voices of the universe,” living out our passions whatever they may be, and having faith in something inspiring. So, which of these philosophies got it right? Are we helpless puppets on the stage of life, programmatically controlled by fate? Or is the construction of our life journey left entirely to our own judgement? Are we alone on that road? If something were to happen to us as we walk its convolutions, would anyone care and come to our rescue?
Such terms as fate or destiny are not explicitly referenced in the Bible. The Scripture presents one’s life as a journey whose direction and success are determined by three key factors: God’s will, our choices, and our relationship with the Lord (Psalm 119:105). The Scripture tells us that we are not alone and we did not come into existence by chance. We have a heavenly Father who gave us life with a remarkable purpose – to praise, fellowship with Him, and proclaim His truth: “You, O Lord, are our Father, Our Redeemer from of old is Your name” (Isaiah 63:16). Although the Lord addressed the following prophetic texts to Israel, they reflect God’s original plan for humankind: “You are My witnesses,” declares the Lord… The people whom I formed for Myself will declare My praise” (Isaiah 43:10, 21), and “Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous works among all the peoples!” (Psalm 96:3). King David testifies how intricately, exquisitely and thoughtfully our Father has made us: “For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:13–14).
The Scripture reveals that our Creator is not an abstract, metaphysical concept. As opposed to mythical moirai, cosmic forces, or a philosophical idea, the Lord is a divine Person in whose image we are all made (Genesis 1:27). The Lord knows every motive of our heart and every step we take as He is omnipresent and omniscient: “You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O Lord, You know it all” (Psalm 139:2–4). Moreover, God is not an indifferent observer of our lives. Unlike our earthly parents who sometimes abandon their children, He loves and cares for us deeply, faithfully, and sacrificially. The following prophetic statement is addressed to Israel but also speaks of the Lord’s loyalty to humankind: “Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you” (Isaiah 49:15). Because the Lord is our Father, He wants us to live abundant, meaningful lives and have a great destiny defined by a deep relationship with Him! In fact, the Lord has spared nothing to accomplish this goal – He came down to earth in human flesh and died in our place to atone for our transgressions (Isaiah 9:6; Acts 20:28; Romans 8:32).
So does the Lord control our fate and destiny? The answer is complex. The Scripture affirms the sovereignty of God – His unprecedented authority, power and full control over everything in the universe including all events in our lives: “He counts the number of the stars; He gives names to all of them. Great is our Lord and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite” (Psalm 147:4–5). Nothing takes place without God’s permission. Proverbs 21:30–31 states: “The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but victory belongs to the Lord.” Luke 12:7 tells us that even our hairs on our head are numbered.
Although God is sovereign, He does not always choose to exercise control at all times over all circumstances. He created us with the capacity to make choices and He wants us to be responsible builders of our lives (1 Corinthians 3:10–15). The most fundamental choice the Lord wants us to make, the choice which determines our destiny, is whether or not we want HIM to be our God and the foundation of our lives: “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days” (Deuteronomy 30:19–20; cf. Exodus 20:2–3; 1 Corinthians 3:11).
Why does God make such a strong statement in the Book of Deuteronomy? Is this a manipulation on the part of Moses to control the ancient Israelites? Absolutely not! It’s actually a sobering warning which stems from the reality in which we live. Although some may find it hard to believe, we are not isolated in this universe. Similar to the molecular world inside our cells which we cannot see with the naked eye, there exists an invisible but real spiritual realm in which we are always active participants whether or not we are aware of this. We are constantly in the midst of spiritual interaction and warfare from the moment we are born. The invisible world is replete with spiritual entities identified in the Hebrew Bible as Elohim or gods. Satanic powers make up an enormous part of that spiritual realm. In his letter to Ephesians, Apostle Shaul (Paul) speaks about those demonic forces: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:10–12). In addition, the Scripture describes Satan as a lion seeking to destroy humankind: “Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Peter uses the imagery of a lion because the lion is an intelligent animal carefully selecting its prey and attacking it strategically and discreetly, most of the time with a fatal outcome for the prey.
These spiritual forces of darkness don’t just come and “invade” us like aliens in Star Wars. While some individuals consciously worship demons, others inadvertently let them into their lives when they walk astray from the God of Israel and His righteous commandments and follow their own sinful desires. Paul warns us in Ephesians 4:27: “Neither give place to the devil.” When we give a foothold to Satan, he exerts his influence in our lives just like cancer spreads its poisonous metastases over the human body. He affects our worldview, pattern of thinking, emotional state, and behavior through countless direct and indirect channels including philosophies, false religions, cults, interpersonal relationships, values and teachings circulating in the world (see 1 Timothy 4:1). Being the righteous judge, our Creator punishes us for our transgressions: “For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness; no evil dwells with You. The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes; You hate all who do iniquity” (Psalm 5:4-5); “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18); and “Thus I will punish the world for its evil and the wicked for their iniquity; I will also put an end to the arrogance of the proud and abase the haughtiness of the ruthless” (Isaiah 13:11). We reap what we have chosen to sow – broken lives, hurting relationships, deaths, atrocities – the human condition as we know it (Isaiah 5:14; Mark 8:36; Luke 16:22–23; Galatians 6:7–8).
As a loving Father, however, the Lord wants us to have a different destiny. Only YHWH is supreme to all created beings, including Satan, and therefore, only the LORD can change our destiny to one victorious over the powers of darkness and abundant with His goodness (Psalm 95:3). This is why God in Deuteronomy 30:19–20 declares through Moses that our lives depend on our relationship with Him. Likewise, the Lord calls out to us: “Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; For I am God, and there is no other” (Isaiah 45:22). Furthermore, since Yeshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) is the God of Israel who came to redeem both Israel and the nations, He stated: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man comes unto the Father except by me… and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life” (John 14:6, 5:40). According to Scripture, “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). Therefore, as Scripture states, no spiritual battles with demonic powers can be won without Yeshua and the armor He gives to His people: “Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:10–12).
When we seek our heavenly Father and turn away from our sinful ways, the Lord forgives us and most often prevents the punishment that we were rightfully due: “But if the wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed and observes all My statutes and practices justice and righteousness, he shall surely live; he shall not die. All his transgressions which he has committed will not be remembered against him; because of his righteousness which he has practiced, he will live. Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked,” declares the Lord God, “rather than that he should turn from his ways and live?” (Ezekiel 18:21–23). For example, when Jonah preached the message of repentance in the Assyrian city of Nineveh, the Ninevites, including the king, turned to the God of Israel and repented of their sins. As a result, the Lord poured out His mercy upon the city and drastically changed its destiny: “When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it” (Jonah 3:10).
Furthermore, our heavenly Father doesn’t want us to just blindly wander in the world left to our own devices, which often shatters our destinies. On the contrary, the Lord wisely guides us throughout our lives: “Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life” (John 8:12). As the psalmist proclaims: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever mine. I have more insight than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, because I have observed Your precepts” (Psalm 119:105, 98–100) and “Good and upright is the Lord; therefore He instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in justice, and He teaches the humble His way. All the paths of the Lord are loving-kindness and truth to those who keep His covenant and His testimonies” (Psalm 25:8–10).
Does that mean that those who serve the Lord will live lives free of pain, suffering, and death? No, not at all! In fact, throughout the entire Scripture, we see multiple examples of righteous individuals undergoing persecution, trials, and afflictions. Being at the forefront of spiritual war, some believers have suffered much more than some sinners (2 Corinthians 4:8–9). Yet their lives were full of God’s glory, mercy, and loving-kindness. That applies to all of us who follow the Lord. Although we are not exempt from hardships, our Father is in them with us. While trials are often used by God as a teaching tool, He guides, nurtures, heals, strengthens, transforms, and delivers us (Psalm 34:19; 91; 121; 138:7; Proverbs 2:11). He protects us from any snare or harm that is not a part of His plan for us: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).
Some individuals think that they don’t really need God. They can create their own successful destiny. All one needs is to be a good person, make intelligent decisions, and not worry about what he or she cannot control. This is a gravely wrong perspective. A person without the Lord resembles a ship in the ocean without a captain and a compass. Although the ship’s journey might be glamorous and exciting, it really doesn’t know where its destination is and how to get there. That ship is absolutely vulnerable as it is at the mercies of waves and wind, unaware of icebergs, underwater reefs, all alone. Without our heavenly Father, we are unprotected in this vast ruthless spiritual realm as we are guided merely by our desires and our limited subjective understanding. Furthermore, our journey doesn’t end here on earth. There will come a day when we will all meet the One who gave us life. Yet those who have rejected Him here on earth, will be rejected by Him in heaven (2 Timothy 2:12). So, what is going to be your destiny? Your choice is a vital factor. I’d like to end this article with the following words of the God of Israel, Yeshua the Messiah: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20). Will you let Him in?