Is everything that happens already determined by God, and it's going to happen no matter what we do? Or do we have the ability to carry out plans on our own, regardless of what God hoped would happen? I have a real struggle understanding this.
You aren’t alone in your struggles about this question; theologians have struggled with it for centuries! Some have stressed God’s absolute control over everything, while others have emphasized our freedom to act on our own.
The reason they haven’t agreed is because the Bible teaches both God’s sovereignty and our human responsibility. In other words, God is absolutely in control of everything — but at the same time, we also are responsible for our actions. I know this sounds like a contradiction, and from our human viewpoint it is. But from God’s viewpoint it isn’t — and someday God will make it clear to us when we get to heaven.
What difference does this make? First, never forget that because God is in control, He is working behind the scenes to accomplish His purposes — and because He is, we can have hope. What if it were all left up to us? What hope would we have then? But God is at work — and that should give us great comfort. The Bible says, “It is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). The last chapter of history will be written by God, not Satan!
Second, because we aren’t puppets, we have a choice: to believe in Christ and serve Him, or to reject Him and go our own way. Which will it be for you? Submit your life to Jesus Christ and serve Him alone — beginning today.