Last week, it was my turn to be on Instagram stories for Walking with Purpose. What do I have to say this week? I thought. I know; I’ll ask our audience if their week isn’t going according to plan because mine certainly isn’t. And then I’ll say something like, “Sister, I’m right there with you.” This was my brilliant idea to be “relatable” until I realized I had posted that exact message only a few weeks earlier. A pattern had emerged.
I am not a planner, but I like plans. And I like it all the more when my days follow the plan. Plans make me feel ordered. They give me peace. They make me feel productive and bolster my self-esteem. When I am acting within a plan, my identity feels strong. I am a good wife and mother. I am a good employee. And gosh, I really love Jesus Christ. The problem is that my life follows the plan only about ten percent of the time.
My life most often unfolds somewhere between the plan and total, utter chaos. The most important things get done but not without a major dose of stress, mess, and repeated promises that things will be different next time. And how does this make me feel? Well, first of all, hot. I’m running around so quickly that I am just hot. But I also feel unglued, out of balance. I feel like a failure, and my identity begins to waver. I would be a good wife and mother if... I would be a better employee if... And I love God, but I keep failing Him.
Are you with me at all? Do you do well when your life goes according to plan but begin to fall apart when you fail or the plan falls apart? The problem with this is that life so rarely goes according to our perfectly laid agendas, so if we submit ourselves to this cycle of happiness, we will find that we rarely experience true joy and contentment. Could many of us be more intentional about how we organize our time? Absolutely. If we did this better, things might be easier, but life is messy on this side of heaven. And so, if we are going to live the abundant life that God offers, we will have to do so even if our best plans and our greatest intentions fail. We need a different perspective.
Two years ago, my husband and I attended a marriage retreat, and I will never forget our teacher’s advice. “Your marriage will fall out of balance,” he said. “There is too much life happening for it not to. The key is not to obsess about always being balanced; it’s to always be balancing.”
Always be balancing. This was such good advice—not just for marriage, but also for how we respond when life doesn’t go according to plan. If the goal is to always live in perfect, holy harmony, we will constantly feel defeated. But if, instead, we recognize that life is a process through which we allow God to sanctify us in every situation, we can take joy in the whole thing—the good and the bad; when things go smoothly and when they don’t. We always have the opportunity to recalibrate, refocus, and reset our eyes on God.
Proverbs 16:9 says, “A man’s mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.”
Scripture also tells us that God’s thoughts are above our thoughts and His ways are above our ways. In our broken, finite state, we only see what’s in front of us. We make decisions and plans based on our limited knowledge, and then we assess the outcome with a myopic view of success. Our God is different. He sees all from eternity. He looks at every moment of our lives and sees it from the clearest perspective. He knows how to make us holy and bring Himself glory. And so, instead of giving in to our negative thought spirals, God calls us to continually bring our gaze back to Him. He orders what is disordered. He brings beauty out of tragedy and good out of evil.
And this is exactly what we will celebrate at the end of this week. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, thought they had a good plan when they sinned against God and ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. That plan failed miserably, and the consequences were dire. And how did our Lord respond? By sending His son to live, die, and rise again. In doing so, He tipped the scales from death to life and brought us back into His perfect balance. God’s infinite mercy brought about His perfect plan, Jesus. And now, He draws close to us, using every life circumstance to make us more like Him if we let Him.
So, if you tend to fall apart when your plans do, take heart. If you get discouraged when you fail, be encouraged. Your mood, self-worth, and happiness do not have to depend on the success of your plans. Instead, when things go haywire, let that initial feeling of panic immediately drive you to refocus on Jesus. Redirect your gaze to Him, and He will bring you back into balance.