FIRST-PERSON: When things don't go as planned
FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) -- Try as I might, some things just don't go quite like I've planned. You probably have had things go awry as well.
Some have been disappointing, others have been devastating: the marriage that ended, or the marriage that hasn't happened yet; the baby you're unable to conceive, or the baby who grew up and broke your heart; a devastating diagnosis, or an illness they can't diagnose; the parent you lost at a young age, or the parent you care for in their old age; a job change, or a job loss.
Whatever it is, it wasn't part of your plan.
What happens when our plans fall through, when that hope we've been aiming at and working toward doesn't materialize -- when, because of our choices, someone else's choices, or simply the sovereign hand of God, we look around and say to ourselves, "I didn't sign up for this"?
If there's one verse I have to tell my own soul over and over again, it's Psalm 138:8. Its words are so simple, yet the promise is so breathtaking: "The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me." Just let that sink in. The Lord [the God who made you, loves you, and gave Himself up for you] will [that's a fact; it's a certainty; you can bank on it] fulfill [bring to fruition and completion] His purpose [the one for which He created you, not anyone else's, including your own] for you [yes, you!].
And here's another: "Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand" (Proverbs 19:21). That means no matter what you and I have mapped out for our lives -- no matter how detailed our 5-, 10-, or 20-year plans may be -- the Lord will never be deterred from fulfilling His purpose for your life and mine.
Whether my soul responds to this promise with peace-filled praise or anxiety-induced petitions is, more often than not, a reflection of my confidence that God is who He says He is.
Sometimes, even my prayers betray the posture of my soul. What if the Lord's purposes don't exactly fit my plans? And then I have to wonder: What if God and I have been aiming at different things?
Take a look at all that the Lord has promised for us in the future, and all that He's told us to do in the present, and we see that Scripture gives us a different way of thinking about our big dreams and life plans. It adjusts our vision. And while we may not be able to plan out all the details, the Lord's purposes for our lives are clear.
Here are just a few of them. That we would:
-- love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind (Matthew 22:37).
-- love others as ourselves (Matthew 22:39).
-- seek first God's Kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33).
-- be sanctified and conformed into the image of Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:3; Romans 8:29).
-- be the Lord's witnesses and ambassadors (Acts 1:8; 2 Corinthians 5:20).
-- walk in holiness, unstained by the world (1 Peter 1:13-16; James 1:27).
-- fight for sexual purity (1 Corinthians 6:18-20; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5).
-- use our gifts to build up and benefit God's family (1 Peter 4:10).
-- walk worthy of the Lord and the calling we have received (Colossians 1:10; Ephesians 4:1).
-- trust in the Lord, knowing He will direct our path (Proverbs 3:5-6).
-- know Christ, even His sufferings (Philippians 3:10).
-- glorify the Lord in every aspect of our lives (Colossians 3:17).
So how do we live in this? How do we allow the Lord's purposes to shape our direction? Proverbs 16:3 gives some insight: "Commit your works to the Lord, And your plans will be established." That word "commit" actually means "roll." Think of it as rolling all that you do -- giving it all -- to Christ. The more we roll our works onto Him, the more we orient our lives around Him. And the more we orient our lives around Him, the more His Spirit shapes and even transforms our plans. His purpose becomes our plans.
It might sound simple. And, I suppose it is simple. But between our plans and God's purposes is often a struggle that involves unclenching our hands and pouring out our hearts to offer the simple prayer: "Thy will be done."
We don't need a 5-year plan to be people of vision. We need a relentless hope, an immovable trust in the purposes of the Lord. He will fulfill His purpose for you. It is certain. It is written. It is yours. Just give Him all of your heart, including your plans.
While I can't say I've got this one all locked up, I'm willing to start trading my plans for His purposes.