Perhaps that God has a plan for your life?
It’s easy to agree with this when we actually like the plan, right?
But what happens when the plan isn’t going quite how we expected it to?
I have just finished reading the book, 'Raising a Soul Surfer' written by Cheri Hamilton whose surfing daughter Bethany Hamiliton lost her arm in a shark attack.
I am also reflecting on the life of a graduate student and previous employee of ZOE named Mimi, who with his young wife had his whole life before him and then suddenly became ill and passed away right before our eyes last week.
Maybe your plan involved having children and it never came to be.
Maybe a certain job just never quite worked out.
Or a friendship, a family relationship or marriage ended up in tatters, broken and seemingly non-repairable.
We are led to face a difficult but undeniable reality. Sometimes God’s plan is different from what we expected. So what happens then?
What do we do when God doesn’t answer our prayer in the way we wanted him to? How do we keep hope alive when life itself seems to be heading in the wrong direction? What if all we own is suddenly snatched away, if everything that's familiar to us is removed, if our friends desert us, if our job is gone, if we no longer have our health or if death takes away those whom we love the most. And these things do happen ... to people ... everyday.
Well, as a Christian one thing that I know about God is that he is a trans-generational God whose purposes span the centuries.
He does not work on the same 'time' that we do or limit himself to our tiny minds trying to understand what he intends to do. We may not be able to see through our current troubles or fully understand why He has allowed something to happen and sometimes we may not even fully understand in ten or even twenty years from now. Because God is God, he doesn’t work on our timetable, and he doesn’t obligate himself to explain his purposes in advance.
No matter how long I wrestle with these tough questions, I think there is some truth in these three things:
(1) Life is like a tapestry by Michael Hyatt
Life is like a tapestry. As it unfolds in real time, it’s like viewing the backside of a tapestry. It appears to be nothing more than a jumble of thread—tangled, frayed, occasionally knotted, and seemingly random. Nothing really makes sense. It’s no wonder people lose heart, give up, and abandon their commitments.
But things are not always what they seem. It’s only when you turn a tapestry over that you see the art: the rich colors, the texture, and the patterns that can make a tapestry a thing of astonishing beauty.
Likewise, occasionally God gives us a glimpse at what He is weaving into the fabric of our lives. That momentary peek at glory gives us the courage to soldier on, knowing that nothing happens by accident. No thread of experience—good or bad—is wasted. When it appears to be that way, we just have to remind ourselves that we are simply looking at the backside of a tapestry. And the One weaving it together, knows precisely what He is doing.
(2) With or without hope by Ray Pritchard (paraphrased)
If we focus on our current troubles, we are likely to be discouraged, disheartened, confused, angry, frustrated and depressed. Many people have done exactly that. They have pondered their own suffering and the pain of the world around them, and that has caused them to give up their faith.
We all hurt every day. No one is immune from the sufferings of humanity.
There is no respite from the pain and suffering of this world. But on a daily basis, either you live with hope or you don’t.
When we hurt, we have two choices:
We can hurt with God,
Or we can hurt without God.
Or we can hurt without God.
There will be times when we can’t read the Bible. Sometimes we won’t be able to focus our thoughts on God at all. Often we will not even be able to pray. But in those moments when we can’t do anything else, we can still trust in the loving purposes of our heavenly Father.
(3) My hopes and dreams were too small for God by Cheri Hamilton
Before the [shark] attack, I had so many plans for my future and dreams of how my daughter's amazing talents could affect the surfing community. But my hopes and dreams were too small for God. He always had much grander plans. Now I am sitting in a movie theatre knowing that our story would go out and reach people who maybe have never even seen an ocean. My plans were way too small. It took a tragedy to shatter them and recast them into God's plans. Bethany's story of faith will be seen in faraway places where she may never get to visit herself... it will go to people and places that would never have heard of Bethany if she had merely become the world champion of women's surfing.
When our plans unravel, when the fear and the tears of tragedy collapse our safe and petty world, we can only turn to God who works all things for good to those who love Him. The frayed fabric of our pain becomes a work of beauty in His hands.
(Back to me now)
And finally I am reminded of the story of Job that despite his immense loss he says,
My hope is that if you are going through a struggle at the moment, that you can find some comfort in the words in this post.
If you have a story that has helped you move through pain or difficulty, I would love for you to share it. Leave a comment below!