Christianity 201

February 12, 2018

When My Plan Isn’t God’s Plan

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:30 pm
Tags: , , ,

We were sorry to see that the Ask the Pastors website has been dormant since October. Readers would send in questions and different pastors would reply. The one below was the final item appearing at the site.

What if God’s plan doesn’t want something important to me to go right?

Question: The Bible always says that God will make everything all right in the end, and if something doesn’t go right, it’s because God’s plan says it’s not supposed to go right. I know that’s supposed to make you feel better, but it does the opposite for me. What if God’s plan doesn’t want something important to me to go right? Please help, because this is one of the main reasons why I feel my faith is weak. For some reason, just “trusting the plan” doesn’t make me feel any better.

Answer:  There is an entire book in the Bible devoted to the search for some guarantee that our lives will go right.  It is the book of Ecclesiastes.  The author sought to “gain” a bright future through various means including wisdom and folly.  He discovered that folly is sure to bring pain and misery, but that even wisdom and behaving wisely cannot keep things going right.  And the ultimate proof of that is death.  We’re all going to die.  God will not rescue us from that negative future.  What he finally counsels is to enjoy the happy moments of life but prepare for the unhappy ones, especially death.  And above all, keep God’s commands.

The author of Ecclesiastes is applying the truth Paul gives us in Romans 8:18-25:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (ESV)

God purposely subjected the world to futility.  That means it is always going to be characterized by frustration.  Things are not going to work out the way they should.  There is a tragic undercoating to all of life.  God did this in the garden of Eden after Adam and Eve sinned.  He made the most beautiful experience in a woman’s life, child bearing, a thing accompanied by pain.  He made growing food a fighting against the land growing weeds.  He banned Adam and Eve from the tree of life so that they would not live forever.  Death became the reality of life.

Paul says God did this in hope of creation’s being set free from this bondage when His kingdom is restored and we are fully redeemed.  We are groaning just like creation is.  Our relationships were meant for perfection but fall sadly short.  Our work was meant to always be fruitful but falls sadly short.  Our lives were meant to be pain and death free, but fall sadly short.  We are hoping for the redemption of all things and will not experience it until Jesus returns.

The author of Ecclesiastes says God did this, made the world this futile place, “so that people fear before him” (Ecclesiastes 3:14).  He put eternity in our hearts yet so that we cannot find how He will work things out from the beginning to the end (3:11).  God knew that if Adam and Eve and all their offspring were allowed to live forever as He intended originally, and if the world always worked the way He originally intended it to work, people, sinful people, would be satisfied with life in this world instead of coming to know the One who alone brings real satisfaction.

This is a long way of answering your question.  Yes, God will make everything right in the end.  The world must remain a frustrating place until then.  There is no guarantee that He will make your life go right in a way that is important to you.  Jesus told us not to fear those who are able to destroy the body, but to fear Him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell (Matthew 10:28).  God has let many of His saints be persecuted to death (Stephen and James are prime examples, Acts 7 and 12).  The apostle James and the apostle Peter were imprisoned by Agrippa (Acts 12) and the church was praying for their release.  James was beheaded but Peter was miraculously released.  God’s plan for James was different than for Peter.  Each was righteous and useful to the kingdom, but only one escaped death.  We could say that living was something important to James to go right, but God did not grant that.

So we’re not asked to simply “trust the plan” if by that is meant trust that it will always go right for us.  We trust God, who loves us more than anything and yet still may not choose to spare us pain.  The apostle Paul experienced tremendous pain (read 2 Corinthians 11 for some examples).  I may never know how or why God used the pain in my life for good (Romans 8:28 does promise that He does) and the “good” does not mean that which is pain free or not tragic.  Life is tragic.  He has made it so on purpose to make people unsatisfied with this life as their answer.

But in the tragedy He teaches us to trust Him and to share in His sufferings.  He gives us empathy for others suffering.  As we show that we have hope despite the tragedy, He sends us people who want to know the reason for our hope.  Jesus was a man acquainted with sorrow (Isaiah 53:3), and so will be those who follow Him.  Yet he was also full of joy by the Holy Spirit (Luke 10:21), and so will be those who follow Him.

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