I know of a young woman who planned great things for her life. She was simple and came from humble surroundings, but like all girls her age, big dreams filled her heart. She thought about getting married and having a home of her own. She dreamed about rocking babies and raising a slew of children with the man she loved.
Then one day, all those plans seemed to fall apart. She was pregnant. She! The good girl, the one who always did everything right, she was going to have a baby. It wouldn’t matter that it wasn’t her fault, that she didn’t do anything wrong—people would look at her differently. People would always wonder, maybe even her beloved.
All the plans in her heart came crashing down.
Yet somehow, she still trusted that God was directing her steps, and that God was leading her to the best possible place. When the circumstances of her life seemed most terrifying, she said, “I am the bondslave of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
Her name was Mary, and the interruption of her plans involved the birth of our Savior. It was a plan that guaranteed her humiliation and removed her security. But she embraced it wholeheartedly.
Every time I read of Mary’s response to the Lord’s interruption to her life, I am astounded. She understood that her life was not her own, and she held her plans loosely in her hands.
I am not that way.
Many of my most frustrating parenting moments have come about because my plans have failed and I have not reacted by opening my hands to God’s new purposes. I do not always allow Him to direct my steps without a struggle, and I can’t seem to enjoy my children if the plan changes mid-morning or fails altogether.
Sometimes, the plans that fail are ordinary, like my plan to get to church on time that is derailed by children who do not eat fast enough or get dressed quickly enough. Sometimes, the plans I have are bigger, like the plan to buy a house, change jobs or balance a budget. What happens when the house falls through, the job doesn’t manifest, or an unexpected expense kills the budget? I usually fail to see God’s purposes in my failed plans.
Many, many, many are the plans in my heart. But it is God’s way to mess with the plans of men, to take us from a place of self-confidence and lead us to a place of faith. We see it Moses, who planned to fade into obscurity but was led instead to a burning bush in the middle of a desert and into a ministry he never wanted. We see it in Joseph, who planned to live a comfortable life under his father’s blessing, but ended up rotting in captivity in Egypt while his brothers got away with murder. We see it in Jacob, who planned to marry the pretty daughter. But he got the other one instead.
In every single one of these instances, God was found in the change of plans. God was leading His child to the place where He was.
It is important to understand that God does not lead us where He does not intend to meet us. He did not do it to our forefathers, and He does not do it to us. But we must hold His hand and walk by faith to get there.
Think of Abraham, who had to climb up the mountain with wood and a knife and the child of promise, the boy they had named Laughter for the remarkable way God had brought him about. Abraham had to be willing to let go of his own dreams and climb up the mountain in faith in order to see the hand of God in what seemed to be an unholy change of plan. If he had not gone, he would have missed it.
When your plans go awry, make it a practice to look for the presence of God. He has not led you into the wilderness to die; He has led you into the wilderness to show you a bush aflame with His glory. He has led you there to show you water from a rock and manna from heaven. He is there, waiting for you to take off your shoes, open your hands, and say, “Be it unto me according to your plan.”
If God is directing you steps, it means He is near enough to hold your hand. He is near enough to keep your steps from falling even though the path is uncharted. He stands next to you with the pot of burning oatmeal or the unexpected bill and He says to you, “Look for me here!”
Can you see God in the unexpected places today? Can you see Him in the change of plans or the interrupted schedule? If you can open your hands and walk in faith the place God has planned for you, you will find greater peace and contentment because that is where God is.
For further thought:
1) Think of an instance when God has allowed you to go through a change of plans in order to lead you to a better place. How did God protect or provide for you by allowing your plans to fail?
2) Read the birth story of Jesus in Luke 1. Would you have been able to respond the way Mary did? How can you be more open to God’s will today?
3) Memorize Proverbs 16:9. Encourage yourself with those words when it seems that all your plans are coming undone. Then, look for God in the place where He leads.