When Things Go Wrong, God Still has a Plan

“A person’s steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand their own way?”— Proverbs 20:24(NIV).

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For nine months, I argued with God. I didn’t want to move from the area where I’d lived for 35 years. I’d taught school there for 30 years. Planning my retirement, I wanted to write newspaper and magazine feature stories for local, state and national publications. I’d also planned to grow my professional photography business of 20 years. Substitute teaching was also on my to-do list.

A broken relationship a month before retirement left me questioning my future plans. When God revealed He had a better plan for my life, I sold my house and moved almost 75 miles to a community where I knew very few people. God had a better plan for me.

As an idealist, I often daydream about the perfect day and life without interruptions. However, that’s not reality. We can’t plan for life’s intrusions. We can’t control what others do. We can’t choose the things popping up to delay our plans.

What does the Bible say about planning?

If you’ve ever had a day when nothing goes as planned, you can relate. Sometimes, it’s a minor upset that cause the greatest problems. It’s easy to get angry, to feel as if the world is against you or to give up.

When I was younger, I had a daily and weekly to-do list. My self-worth was tied to checking off each item of my plan. When life interrupted, I wasn’t too happy. My attitude reeked of self-importance. I thought I had to prove, through my accomplishments, that I was a worthy human. Then, Jesus got ahold of me—and I’m so glad He did.

Now, when nothing goes as planned, I don’t panic. I don’t get upset by the delays, and I don’t worry about the things on my list left undone until later. As a reformed control freak and people pleaser, I’ve learned to patiently wait on God, trusting He has a better plan for my life.

What Happens When We Procrastinate?

“Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you’”—Matthew 25:11-12(NIV).

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Did you know there’s a Procrastinator’s Club? They’ve never met because they keep postponing their meeting. We can laugh about putting things off. Some procrastinate because the project is daunting or boring. Others find better things to do. There are, of course, those who have procrastinated so long the pile of tasks grows into a mountain they’re afraid to tackle.

People procrastinate for different reasons. Psychologist Joseph Ferrari, Ph.D., identifies three basic types of procrastinators:

  • Arousal types, or thrill-seekers, who wait to the last minute for the euphoric rush.
  • Avoiders, who may be avoiding fear of failure or even fear of success, but in either case are very concerned with what others think of them; they would rather have others think they lack effort than ability.
  • Decisional procrastinators, who cannot make a decision. Not making a decision absolves procrastinators of responsibility for the outcome of events.

If you’re a procrastinator, can you relate to any of these? While I don’t consider myself a procrastinator, I do delay doing things I consider unpleasant, unimportant or not interesting.

Someday will be here sooner than you think.

We let things in our life pile up for various reasons, but in today’s world of social media and technology devices, it’s easier than ever to succumb to procrastination. We become distracted by the frivolous and foolish.

Why We Need Reminders of God’s Faithfulness

“Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us’”—1 Samuel 7:12(NKJV).

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In a recent column, I made a mistake. I’d forgotten the importance of double checking facts, but a reader, who pointed out my error, reminded me I had been careless. In a hurry to finish, I’d accepted what someone else had written—and I had quoted—as correct.

After I thanked him for emailing me, I had to smile. Why? Because the pointing out of my mistake was perfect timing for the topic God had already laid on my heart.

Several months ago, I received a thank you note from a group of women who had heard me speak at a conference in May 2016. While I’d forgotten the event in the midst of life-changing circumstances, the arrival of the card was perfect timing. I needed a reminder of what God had done in my life and what He was doing through me to encourage other women in their walk with the Lord.

It was a reminder of God’s divine aid.

God’s timing is always “on time.” However, we often forget His faithfulness in the midst of our struggles. So did the Israelites. In scripture, we see examples of reminders. In Joshua 4, after the Israelites had crossed the Jordan River through God’s supernatural provision, He commanded them to set up 12 stones as “a memorial to the children of Israel forever.”

In 1 Samuel 7:12, the prophet Samuel set up a commemorative stone and named it Ebenezer to serve as a reminder that “thus far the Lord has helped us.”

Are You Ready for a Change?

Change is difficult even for the most self-disciplined of us.

“We never give up. Our bodies are gradually dying, but we ourselves are being made stronger each day. These little troubles are getting us ready for an eternal glory that will make all our troubles seem like nothing. Things that are seen don’t last forever, but things that are not seen are eternal. That’s why we keep our minds on the things that cannot be seen”—2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (CEV).

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January is almost over. If you vowed to make changes in 2017, have you made any progress? Change is difficult even for the most self-disciplined of us.

It’s easier to get stuck in a rut than it is to get out. I believe most of us have been there. We get comfortable in our routines—our comfort zones—and we’d rather remain where we feel safe. Getting out of the boat means we’re vulnerable.

Remember Peter. As Jesus walked on the water toward the boat full of disciples, Peter said, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” Jesus replied.

Peter stepped out of the boat. Even though he could see Jesus walking toward him on the water, his fear of the strong winds led him to take his eyes off of Jesus. What happened? His faith deserted him and he began to sink.

In Matthew 14:31, we’re told, “Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ He said, ‘why did you doubt?’”

Doubt can hold us back from making changes in our lives. We focus instead on the “What ifs.”

  • What if I fail?

  • What if I make the wrong choice?

  • What if others think I’m crazy?

Do You Need a Spiritual Check-up?

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test my thoughts. Point out anything you find in me that makes you sad, and lead me along the path of everlasting life”–Psalm 139:23-24 (TLB).

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From the posts I’ve read on social media and remarks from friends, I’m certain most of us are glad 2016 is behind us.

Although 2016 was a challenge, I held out hope for a promising ending. However, I was confronted with disappointing news several days before the end of the year. It wasn’t just one piece of news—it came in a bundle of three—all on the same day.

I turned to trusted friends, asking for prayer. The next morning while writing in my prayer journal, God’s Holy Spirit revealed an answer to my “Why?” The reply came, “We each have free will.”

Have I fully surrendered to the Holy Spirit?

We can choose to follow God’s leading or we can select our own path. I trust the path others have chosen is the path God has prepared for them. I must walk forward, faithfully, on the path God has prepared for me.

While each day offers an opportunity to examine our spiritual lives, a new year is especially conducive to searching our hearts and our lives to see if they line up with God’s plans. Ask yourself the following questions:

Cling to Jesus and let go of the Past

“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” –Philippians 3:13-14(NIV).

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Since 2001, I’ve packed my belongings and moved five times. That averages moving every three years. However, I did remain in one house for almost 11 years. If you’ve ever moved, you know the challenge it involves. While looking forward to a new adventure, there is still the logistics of dealing with possessions one has accumulated over the years.

When I prepared to move this last time in April 2016, I realized, once again, how much I had amassed. During the 11 years I’d lived in that residence, I lost my only surviving parent. My mother had passed in 2004, followed by my father in 2007. When my sister and I met to assess their belongings, we each chose things we wanted to keep. Then, we allowed family members to make their selections. Everything that remained was given away.

As the apostle Paul said, we must forget what is behind.

We must cling to Jesus.

As I cleaned out cabinets last April and started packing, I came across some of my mother’s crystal, as well as other decorative and delicate items stored on the top kitchen shelves since September 2007.  Almost nine years later, the keepsakes had remained untouched, except for one beautiful cut-glass vase I’d used many times. Why was I hanging onto things that were not useful to me? Why had I toted them home in the first place? Gathering dust, they had remained hidden from sight.

Living a Life of Giving Thanks

“Though some tongues just love the taste of gossip, those who follow Jesus have better uses for language than that. Don’t talk dirty or silly. That kind of talk doesn’t fit our style. Thanksgiving is our dialect”—Ephesians 5:4 (MSG).

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As I write this, election day is still four days away. I, for one, will be glad when it’s over. I pray that those who have spewed hatred across the airwaves, on social media and through other means of communication will be able to step back and give thanks, whether their candidate won or lost.

True followers of Christ know that we’ve won, no matter who is in the Oval Office. While our country isn’t perfect, I’d rather live here than anywhere else. I’ve visited foreign countries. I’ve seen the oppressed and the poor that make our poorest appear rich in comparison.

Give thanks to the Lord!

 

In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, the Apostle Paul writes, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”

Paul’s reminder is as relevant today as it was when he wrote his epistle to the Thessalonians.

What does it mean to live a life of giving thanks? It’s a life permeated by a grateful heart that overflows to others. It’s a life marked by contentment. Although we seem to have more, we enjoy life less. We work harder to accumulate more, but on the whole we’re not happier. We entertain the notion that we’re entitled to more, which leads to a life of discontent.