I think everyone is a “planner” to some degree. When I first awaken in the morning and ascertain what day it is, I mentally run through my tentative plans for the day. Next, I have a quiet devotional time with prayer in which I commit my day to God and ask him to approve or change my tentative plans. This takes some flexibility on my part. All I can say is that I am getting better at it.
Still, sometimes I admit I get fretful when my plans go awry and I must adapt to something different that may change an hour or day of my plans, or even my whole life in an instant.
Plans in the Bible
Consider Moses of Hebrew parents but raised in a royal household and having an Egyptian position of authority. The instant he saw a fellow Hebrew worker abused, he reacted by killing the abusing Egyptian overseer and fleeing to the anonymity of being a shepherd (Exodus 2).
God called Moses again to leave his family and sheep and return to Egypt to lead God’s people from Egypt to the promised land (Exodus 14). Poor Moses! His plans for his life kept changing, and he really didn’t feel qualified anyway to be a leader because of his speech impediment. Of course, God knew best and used Moses in unimaginable ways.
In the New Testament we find Paul, nee Saul. He was a fine defender of God and His commandments, as he understood them. Saul was busy persecuting those who believed in the new guy, Jesus. Paul’s plans were fractured on the road to Damascus. Blinded and awestruck he heard a voice, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9). Persecuting? Paul thought he was helping God, but was truly blind to Jesus and His mission on earth. Change of plans for Paul!
Modern Day Plans
Moving to more recent years, we recently mourned the death of John McCain, an honored, dedicated statesman who stood up for what he believed was right. I am sure he did not plan to have his plane crash and to spend many months being tortured in the Hanoi Hilton.
Others with changed plans include Mother Teresa whose devotion as a nun led to working with the poor and diseased; Billy Graham who went from Fuller Brush salesman to almost being asked to leave his college to extraordinary evangelist; and Joni Eareckson Tada whose diving accident left her a quadriplegic but who became an artist and writer of devotional material. History is full of people whose plans and lives were rearranged with shattered plans and necessary redirections.
Anyone who has lost a loved one has dealt with a life-changing shift in his plans and goals. I have several friends who have become caretakers for their spouses. Could they have possibly foreseen, on the happy occasion of their wedding or the hectic but satisfying days of raising a family, that their lives could have changed so drastically? Again, these exemplify shattered plans, not to be able to enjoy older age together.
Regardless if the plan/change is brought on by outside forces beyond your control (illness, accident, change of another’s heart or mind), internal decisions, or by what you perceive as an intervention by God, it is my personal feeling that we have two responsibilities.
First examine the parameters of the change. In what ways will it impact your life? Can you foresee any positive aspect? If not, look for one. What will you have to do to adapt to the life change, and what accommodations must you internalize to assist yourself?
Happening simultaneously with the first suggestion, if you are in a close relationship with God, lean on His wisdom and compassion to guide you through your fractured plan. Pray for a positive outlook to determine how best to cope and discern what is to be learned from your new situation. Is there something about your changed circumstances that can be shared to help others?
A few months after I suddenly found myself to be an emotionally shattered, 47- year- old widow, an older lady in our church approached me and asked if I could help her learn to put gas in her car. Since her husband’s recent death, she no longer wanted to depend on her son to do this; she really wanted to learn how herself. As a fellow widow, I could sympathize with her need for a new independence. Emboldened by her success, she later asked for help learning to balance her checkbook and reconcile her bank statements. I was happy to show her.
Did God make me a widow so as to be more approachable by the older widow? Of course not!! But in this small way, I was able to make the proverbial lemonade out of a very sour lemon and made a new friend in the process.
Finally, cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7). One expression I have heard is “man plans and God laughs.” This does not mean that God laughs at us; just sometimes he is amused at the careful plans we have made. What God has in mind for us is best, although we might disagree at the time. Praying to God will not necessarily change the outcome of your list of upset plans, but it will change both your realization that, indeed, you CAN cope and God will be your best coach to tell you how.
Joni Eareckson Tada in her book “The God I Love” says,”Sometimes God allows what He hates to accomplish what He loves.”