Slate recently profiled a military family as a part of its career series Best Laid Plans. The article followed the unpredictable journey of an Air Force major, a software engineer-turned-stay-at-home dad, and their two young kids.

After a decade of service, Shana—an Air Force mom with a civilian husband—described her career expectations this way:

Being in the military, I found I would make plans, and every time I would say, “I want to go to this place, or do this, or go here,” something would change. I would get a totally different job than I asked for, or life would change, and I realized I couldn’t really plan for anything.

The everyday rhythms of military marriage rarely get portrayed in the media. (Instead, it’s often the heavy patriotism of star-spangled holidays or emotional drama of surprise homecomings.) Shana’s remarks sum up a real-life struggle for military families: With constant cycles of moves, deployments, trainings, and schools, they can’t really plan for anything.

Her family makeup is unusual. Men rarely give up career stability to marry women in the military. Consider these stats from Pew Research: The military makes up less than 1 percent of the US population, and women comprise about 15 percent of the force. Female service members are less likely than their male counterparts to marry, and if they do, nearly half of them marry someone else in the military.

Though civilian women are more likely than men to make the sacrifice of marrying someone in the service (95 percent of military spouses are female), it’s still a frustrating arrangement at times. For most couples, marriage means “settling down.” In the military, it almost inevitably means moving away.

Wives are forced to cobble together work-from-home scenarios, restart their career search with each move, or leave the workforce altogether to become stay-at-home wives or moms.

A study released last year by the Military Officers Association of America found that 90 percent of military spouses, more than 600,000 people, are unemployed or underemployed. When they can find work, they earn about 38 percent less than civilians in similar positions.

Michelle Obama and Jill Biden have organized a campaign, Joining Forces, designed to address these disparities. (It was one of many initiatives that garnered applause during President Obama’s State of the Union address last month.) As part of their efforts to help military spouses—as well as veterans—find jobs, they’ve urged states to make it easier for spouses to transfer professional licenses when they move. They’ve spoken out against employment discrimination based on past military affiliation. Their efforts bring some attention to the practical struggle of this lifestyle.

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Beyond the economic setbacks, military families’ inability to plan with certainty can make for awkward conversations. Well-intentioned friends ask, “When…?,” “How long…?” or “What next…?,” and all we can honestly say is, “I don’t know for sure.” As a Navy brat, I lived in 11 houses by the time I was 11. As an Army wife, I watched my husband bounce around among five duty stations during his first five years in the service. I’ve had to give up control, sometimes reluctantly, and sometimes joyfully, knowing that God sees over our path.

It’s a confusing paradigm for a society set on laying out our future. Through goal-setting, five-year plans, and a range of advice from articles and self-help books, we are inspired by the idea of building our own destiny. After all, there’s a universal human desire to know and control, dating all the way back to our impulse in the Garden.

Oliver Burkeman, who writes a column on psychology in The Guardian, said this about our desire to make plans:

What motivates our investment in goals and planning for the future, much of the time, isn’t any sober recognition of the virtues of preparation and looking ahead. Rather, it’s something much more emotional: how deeply uncomfortable we are made by feelings of uncertainty. Faced with the anxiety of not knowing what the future holds, we invest ever more fiercely in our preferred vision of that future — not because it will help us achieve it, but because it helps rid us of feelings of uncertainty in the present.

Even those who ascribe to the truth of the gospel sometimes cannot shake this feeling of uncertainty, and we invest our hearts into our own plans like everybody else. And yet, Scripture warns that those who think they know what’ll happen often find themselves humbled by life’s twists. “Do not boast about tomorrow,” Proverbs 27:1 reads, “for you do not know what a day may bring.” Christ himself echoes this teaching in Matthew 6, telling his followers the promise of God’s provision makes worrying about the future a waste of time.

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We’ve probably all been disappointed by plans held too tight—the dream school we never got into, the career path we veered from, the breakup that messed up our marriage timeline, the fertility struggle making it impossible to have two kids by 35. This doesn’t mean we give up on planning altogether, but that we recognize our ideas come with qualifications and are ultimately subject to forces beyond our control. I think of Muslim cultures where each plan or promise—even saying, “See you again soon”—gets followed by Insha'Allah, Arabic for “God-willing.”

Like most military spouses, I avoid long-term plans and can’t tell you how long we’ll live in one place or where we’ll be stationed next. Any plans I do make, though, come with an unspoken understanding: “God-willing”… and “Army-willing.”