Does it seem to you that some Christians expect God, like a personal assistant, to keep everything on schedule and on an even keel? They might not express it that way, but their rush to hold him in contempt when Plan A is upset, delayed, or becomes altogether defunct, is pretty telling. To be disappointed – even temporarily – by setbacks is human, and leads us into the process of grieving our dead visions. But when the Plan A ship has sailed we are advised to find another vessel, preferably the one God had in mind all along. It’s called making adjustments.
Good grief, trust, and humility…
I don’t think we can make a smooth transition to a new course without grieving the loss of the old one. We adjust to a new home or a new job or a new ministry assignment best when we grieve losing the former one. Jesus, “the man of sorrows and acquainted with grief…” has walked me through some major transitions in my life by first helping me grieve the old and accept the new. When we adequately grieve our losses, give them an appropriate funeral, say a proper farewell to our former dreams; we’re free to dream again.
Making smooth adjustments on the fly is also a trust thing. When everything is static and predictable there’s no need to make adjustments and we don’t really have to trust God much. It’s not faith if we know what to expect. But when we’re placed in an unfamiliar situation, we’re forced to trust. David, whose life became frequently upended and reinvented is a good example of a guy who trusted God’s ability to implement Plan B. Minding his own business on his father’s sheep ranch he was told to be king, when trying to be king his predecessor incessantly hunted him with drawn sword, and then his very own son tried to depose him from his throne. No wonder his musical diary is so full of prayers like this one: “In you I trust, O my God. Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me.”
Ever since our first parents spit in his face and decided to go with the devil, God has had a lot of experience with Plan B. Of course he has the distinct advantage of always knowing beforehand that a detour is up ahead. Because we don’t possess this same capability, things come to us as surprises. Therefore, it’s to our advantage to keep in mind that though we’re shocked by setbacks and inconvenient detours, no such surprise is his, and we can rest assured that he’s ready to launch Plan B, C, D, or beyond, as a way out or a way through our unexpected circumstances.
“We know he works in all things for the good of those who love him.” I’m eased to know that he knows what I don’t know, knows a way to a different place that I don’t even know about, and knows how to get there! Know what I mean?
According to C.S. Lewis, pride is the fundamental anti-God posture. That being true, pride’s opposite, humility, is the indispensible pro-God attitude, especially when we’re trying to adapt to some new life-detour. Sometimes in my pride I’m like that toy soldier that we talked about earlier who runs into an obstacle perpendicularly and gets stuck in marching mode against the wall until he runs out of energy. Because I was too proud to make the adjustment, I stubbornly beat my head against the wall of Plan A. Humility says, “I’m going to be stuck right here until I get over myself enough to adjust to these circumstances that are beyond my control. It may make me look like a fool for not anticipating this turn of events, but I’m going to turn now to one side or the other!”
Finding something good on the detour…
When something gets in the way of your intended driving route – be it road construction, accident up ahead, or buffalo stampede – besides pulling over and waiting for the situation to change – your only alternative is to take a detour with which you might be unfamiliar. Detours can be frightening or annoying, but you might just discover things on that uncharted route that you didn’t know existed after all those years of speeding by on the super highway above. Life (and God) has a way of impeding the best laid plans of mice and men, and diverting us to previously unexplored possibilities below. A detour might put us into contact with opportunities otherwise unknown to us. When his car broke down, my friend, David (above), was able to lead the mechanic to faith in Jesus. Because he was sold as a slave, Joseph was put into a strategic position to rescue his family from starvation. While living as a political prisoner, Daniel helped several Babylonian kings get acquainted with Jehovah and govern their country in tumultuous times.
Adjusting to an unfamiliar detour can be unnerving. Like changing lines in the grocery store, the new route might be worse than the crowded highway with which we’re familiar. When delays and disasters hit, changing a course with which we’ve grown accustomed can be so disconcerting that we disconsolately pull over onto the shoulder and park, sometimes for too long a time, until we eventually call up enough faith in the God of Plan B, make the necessary adjustments, and venture into uncharted territory.