The Better Plan

(Republished with permission from Press Service International, for Christian Today Australia )

I recently archived a bunch of my photos.

As I looked through these snapshots of life and remembered the people, places, words and thinking that marked various moments and seasons, I also remembered the things I treasured, the things I thought would last, the plans I had for the future, and the seemingly big decisions I made.

Through every chapter and adventure, God was at work. He was and still is faithful in guiding me, training me, lifting me up in my failures and loss, and helping me find my strength, purpose and identity in him.

One voice spoke most clearly in my reminiscing – ‘I have a better plan.’ While I love to have things organised and in control, God has always led me into his better plan. The lyrics of Bethel Music’s ‘Goodness of God’ played in my heart and I thanked God who has been and continues to be so, so good to me.

All my life You have been faithful
And all my life You have been so, so good
With every breath that I am able
Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God.
(‘Goodness of God’, Bethel Music)

. . .

A plan independent of people

My husband and I often laugh about the contrast between his introversion and my extroversion. I love people! I love hearing their stories, watching their lives unfold, and being able to journey through seasons together. If I had it my way, everyone would be best buddies forever. Many times, however, God has shown me how his plans work with, without and despite people.

Throughout the Bible, we see the fallout of depending on people over God, but we also see God’s grace and unaffected plans. One example is Abraham and Sarah’s use of the maidservant Hagar to conceive a son. This led to the rise of a nation that would war against Israel for generations. Yet in God’s grace, the nation of Israel was still established, and the Messiah born as promised.

Despite human deviations from God’s instructions, God’s plan always remains sound. It might be tempting to lean on our own plans, or to rely on people who seem to be of position or possession, but as God has shown me many times, it is him alone who remains faithful, true and a rock to my life when everything else falls away.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs chapter 3, verses 5–6)

. . .

A plan that requires hard work

Proverbs chapter 24 says:

A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest— and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man. (Proverbs chapter 24, verses 33–34 )

Rest is important. The concept of the Sabbath is emphasised all throughout the Bible. However, rest and laziness are different. There is a saying that speaks of how Christians do not retire, and indeed we are called to serve wholeheartedly until the end.

God has a plan for us, but we need to step into it. This requires us to obey, to sacrifice, to have courage, face adversity, and work hard. That work might look different in various seasons and aspects of life, but the heart of it remains the same; to love God and love others. We love in our workplace, love in our homes, and never give up running after God.

There are no sunset years for the Christian. Until the day you die, you have a race to run and a ministry to finish… So, straighten your back. Open your eyes. Brace your shoulders. And cry out, ‘I will not waste it!’ (John Piper)

. . .
A plan that navigates loss

The older I get, the more aware I am that suffering is inevitable. Our bodies will wear out, we will lose loved ones, and tragedies will happen. There is so much that could be said about the role of suffering in life, and I think it is important to know that God’s perfect plan does not mean a pain-free life. In fact, we are guaranteed suffering, but also guaranteed a way through it.

As we follow Christ, we will need to leave other things behind. As the hymn goes,

The cross before me
The world behind me
No turning back
No turning back.
(Lyrics from the hymn ‘ have decided to follow Jesus’)

God’s perfect plan means that there is joy and redemption at the end. This hope in salvation can carry us through tough seasons of suffering.

. . .
A plan that brings blessing

Every time I reflect on my life, I am astounded by the way God has orchestrated everything. Even trials and times of sadness have been transformed into testimonies of his goodness. These testimonies remind me that God never fails and that he truly does have a good and solid plan for the future, even if I don’t see all its finer details in my immediate situation.

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm chapter 16, verse 11)

Lord, lead me in your path of life. Let me stay in your presence and experience the fullness of your joy through every season and circumstance.

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