We’ve all done it.
Expected God to work on our timetable. Anticipated how our lives would unfold. ‘Known’ our future career, life plans, how many kids we would have, who we’d marry.
Then life rudely interrupts. How dare you, life! This is my story, and you’re wrecking it. Dr. Del Tackett (Focus on the Family) describes this as “Someone stepping on our script”. Life is all about me, so whoever stands in the way is the enemy. Right?
Have you ever had this experience? Our response to these detours, delayed dreams, disappointments, and every other ‘D’ word says a lot about who we are… and what we put our hope in.
The reality is that sometimes, following God is HARD. He does not give us the blueprint for our lives, the road map we will travel, the extreme disappointments or detours we sometimes face, the failures we encounter (our own and others).
This doesn’t sit well with our Inner Control Freak–the OCD one that wants to figure out life and keep it under our thumb. We want to call the shots. The American Dream after all is about realizing your plan for your life–Higher Powers not included.
But I’m learning that the sooner we surrender the American Dream and follow God’s dream for us, the better off we will be.
Blasphemy? For diehard Patriots, it seems to be.
God is — if you haven’t figured it out yet — unpredictable. Yet He’s still in control. He knows ahead of time what you’ll face, good/bad/and ugly-ugly.
This weekend I read where Jesus tells His followers that our Father knows what we need before we ask. Good news! He sees beyond our finite timeline and already knows our life’s twists and turns–some exhilarating, some terrifying, and some crushingly painful.
I had this very experience 2 years ago when I moved to Atlanta. I moved there with the highest of hopes–believing God had told me to go. I jumped at the chance, in faith. I didn’t foresee that in the months to follow, every hope and dream in my heart would be dashed. (Sad story? No way–God has turned me in a brand-new direction that is much better than the plans I’d had in this city!)
My time there wasn’t without purpose, but the wandering and deep pain was brutal, at the time. I wondered if God forgot me or if He just never intended to bless me. Every faith-filled promise was challenged at my core. At some point, I stopped believing God was for me and assumed life was bitterly hard. I’m a little sad to say I gave up hope.
During my time there, two Scriptures continuously “popped up” everywhere I turned:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are Mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.”
And then this one, a promise I HATED (truthfully!). When I came across it, I rolled my eyes, scoffed and quickly flipped the page–or tuned the speaker out. Just a little telling of my heart’s condition, huh? Eep.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” -Jeremiah 29:11
The truth is, I didn’t believe Him. Hope? I didn’t want hope–it had gotten me nowhere except heartbreak. So I glossed over this verse whenever it came up. Plans to prosper me? Yea, right. I’ve heard that one before honey. I’m in the digging-in-your-heels-and-fighting-like-hell stage. Hope-filled futures and prosperity weren’t even on my radar. I was just trying to survive.
I wonder if you’re experiencing this right now, or if you may someday. I hope not, but if this happens in your life, you are hearing ahead of time that God cares for you and that you aren’t alone in walking this difficult path.
9 months into my Atlanta venture, He let me know something else, too. Out of nowhere, as if trying to get a message across to me, this thought kept resonating in my heart:
You are living Plan B.
Hold the phone. Say what? HOW? I’ve been following ‘Your’ voice this whole time. Right?
Then a week or two later, my roomie told me about a little book titled Plan B. At its mention, something jumped within me. Suddenly I knew I was living Plan B. I didn’t know how or why, but I realized I was missing God’s “divine will” for me somehow.
In retrospect I see the truth in this. I was pursuing the wrong dream, one manufactured in my own heart, not His. That’s what I followed when moving to Atlanta–myself. I didn’t know that then. I was fully [and wrongly] convinced that God Himself said to go, but as months and then a year dragged on, that Voice spoke the truth that I was living outside His ideal for me.
You see, months before moving, God warned me not to spite someone I knew (an Atlantan)–that if I did, I would delay my future. Then He repeated Himself. He warned me that my disobedience would cost me precious time and delay a huge blessing in my life. Per (my old) usual, I strongheadedly forged ahead anyway. Never a good idea. I believe my tough time in this city was the price I paid.
So that painful journey wasn’t God’s “Plan A” for me? Nope–I really don’t think so. He graciously walked me through it, true to His word, but it wasn’t without severe repercussions. I don’t recommend taking your own road for this reason :) But sometimes our stubborn wills won’t learn any other way.
Atlanta turned out to be exactly that: a detour keeping me focused on the wrong dream, and taking me away from the right man and the right city–Plan A.
I’m so thankful to say that towards the end of my Atlanta experience, God rapidly brought the puzzle pieces of my life together for marriage and relocation to Austin, TX.
Oh Lord, thank You for speaking to me there. Thank You for encouraging me ahead of time, letting me know You’d walk through the waters with me and not let the fire set me ablaze. You are so kind and merciful to tell us what we need to hear before we walk through it!! Even if we don’t recognize You in our midst, thank You for being there anyway.
So now, ‘without further adieu’, here’s the message I needed to hear so desperately last year–the central message of this Plan B book I’d heard about. I only wish I’d read this then!
Have you ever felt like you stepped out on faith and smashed it to pieces?
Maybe you honestly felt like God was calling you to do something or go somewhere, but once you did it everything seemed to begin to fall apart. Now you’re trying to pick up the pieces and get your life back on track, while wondering how you could have felt so sure about something that ended up being so wrong.
They say every cloud has a silver lining, but does it ever feel like the silver linings of all the clouds are tarnished?
You are desperately searching for a ray of hope in the midst of the storm that is your life, but it seems like every time you see a light shining down from the clouds, it turns out to be a bolt of lightning that knocks you back down. You know that storms are inevitable and rain is necessary if fruit is to be produced, but you are wondering if the storm is ever going to end.
Do you ever feel like you are asleep and can’t wake up?
You are drifting in and out of consciousness, knowing that you need to wake up and get going because there is so much more to life than where you are at and what you have done, but you can’t figure out how to snap out of the funk and get things moving in the right direction. You know that for things to get better, you have to stand up and get moving, but it would be so much easier to pull the covers up over your head, shut out the rest of the world, and let yourself fall into a deep sleep.
“What do you do when God doesn’t show up the way you thought He would?”
“What do you do when your life isn’t turning out the way you thought it would? “
“What do you do when your dreams are shattered? “
Pete Wilson is pastor of Cross Point Church in the Nashville, TN area and he addresses these three questions, among others, in Plan B: What Do You Do When God Doesn’t Show Up The Way You Thought He Would.
Have you ever read a book that seemed like the whole purpose of it being written was so that you could read it at the exact time and situation you are in? This was that book for me. At a time when I was feeling beat down, hopeless, and searching for answers, this book was a God-send. Literally. As I was reading it, I felt like God was using the words of Pete Wilson to communicate a message of hope and comfort at the time I needed it most.
And now, my earnest question for you: Have you ever lived Plan B? What did you learn thru this experience?