Do you ever look at your life and wonder how you got where you are? Do you ever compare your life to your friends' or neighbors' lives? Do you ever wonder if you'll ever reach those goals that you set for yourself or realize the dreams that you have?
I'm a planner by nature … and by habit … and by profession. I like to know where I am, where I'm going and what's going to happen. You can call it being in control or you can call it being a control freak. I'm not one who rebels against changes, but they should all be within the boundaries of MY plan.
Do you know anyone like that? Are you like that? Fortunately for me (and those around me) I'm learning to not be "that" extreme anymore. I used to think that I could plan out my whole life and live it accordingly. Oftentimes, my plans unraveled and I would find myself wondering …
- Why did my plans go wrong?
- Did I make a wrong turn somewhere that led me down this road?
- Are my dreams not going to be realized?
- Why me?!
According to Proverbs 16:9 (often quoted by "non-planners"), "In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps."
I not only "planned" my course in my heart, but also in my mind, body, spirit, on paper and on my calendar! By the time that I graduated from college, I had my whole life laid out before my eyes. One thing that I didn't "plan" on being at this point in my schedule was SINGLE!
For many of us, our "plans" haven't worked out exactly according to our calendars and PDAs. For many of us, it's a constant adjustment to what we had "thought" or "planned." For many of us, something happened that was totally out of our control.
So, how have you reacted?
Complain? Question? Curse?
Job didn't "plan" on losing his family, his wealth, and his livelihood. He didn't plan on being raided, having fireballs fall from the sky killing his livestock, having a tornado hit his family's house killing his sons and daughters, and being inflicted with boils. He reacted to his situation as many of us probably would have (or do each day when the "unexpected" happens).
- "I am disgusted with my life. Let me complain freely. I will speak in the bitterness of my soul" (Job 10:1).
- "Why do you reject me, the work of your own hands, while sending joy and prosperity to the wicked? (Job 10:3).
- "Cursed be the day of my birth, and cursed be the night when I was conceived" (Job 3:3).
Job's wife, who was in the midst of the same suffering, said, "Are you still trying to maintain your integrity? Curse God and die" (Job 2:9).
If there was anyone who felt as if he had control over his plans and future, it would have been Job. Here was a man who, according to most standards, was a success. He had a large family, wealth beyond what any of us could imagine, and his health. Beyond that the Lord said, "He is the finest man in all the earth—a man of complete integrity. He fears God and will have nothing to do with evil" (Job 1:8). In other words, he "had it all."
"But they do not know the Lord's thoughts or understand his plan" (Micah 4:12).
At one time or another in everyone's life, we all face disappointment and plans that don't meet our expectations. If you ever think that you're the only person on earth that has had their plans and dreams shattered, it only takes one episode of auditions from American Idol to confirm that "you are not alone."
Emil Zatopek, Four-time Olympic gold medalist, may have prophesied about future American Idol contestants or many of us when he said:
"You can't climb up to the second floor without a ladder. When you set your aim too high and don't fulfill it, then your enthusiasm turns to bitterness."
Lofty goals and aiming high isn't wrong, in fact a lot of people probably don't shoot high enough. The question, "How do you deal with disappointment and unfulfilled expectations?" arises when our standards aren't met and the plans we make don't work out.
I wonder …
- How many of us have had our enthusiasm for something (or somebody) turn into resentment and bitterness?
- How many of us still carry baggage from our childhood, from a former job, or from a past relationship?
- How many of us are allowing disappointments from yesterday to impact our lives negatively today?
Job wasn't immune to speaking his peace. After many days of questions and complaints from Job, God answered him.
"Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words? Brace yourself, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them. Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much. Do you know how its dimensions were determined and who did the surveying? What supports its foundations, and who laid its cornerstone as the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy? Who defined the boundaries of the sea as if burst from the womb, and as I clothed it with clouds and thick darkness? …" (Job 37-41).
Job replied to the Lord, "I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you. You ask, 'Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?' It is I. And I was talking about things I did not understand, things far too wonderful for me?" (Job 42:1-3).
Are you discouraged, discontent, bitter? The disgruntlement and baggage from expectations not met can take away from the joy and the future that the Lord has, wants, and "plans" for each one of us. That joy often comes in ways we could never imagine or envision for ourselves.
- Could the elder Abraham and Sarah have planned on conceiving a baby in their later years? (Genesis 21)
- Could the barren Hannah have planned on her womb being opened so she could conceive a baby? (1 Samuel 1)
- Could the widowed and childless Ruth have planned on remarrying a wealthy landowner and bearing a son? (Ruth 4)
Despite Job's outbursts of frustration and exasperation, he never lost faith and he never denounced God.
"At least I can take comfort in this: Despite the pain, I have not denied the words of the Holy One" (Job 6:10).
Abraham, Hannah, and Ruth never lost their faith either. They continued to pray and rely upon the Lord during their grief.
- "Then Abraham prayed to God …" (Genesis 20:17).
- "….For I (Hannah) have been praying out of great anguish and sorrow" (1 Samuel 1:16).
- (Boaz to Ruth) "May the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully" (Ruth 2:12).
The interesting thing about Job's case is that he never gets "answers" to his questions, but he does get a renewed vision of God, and died "an old man who had lived a long, good life" (Job 42:17).
"For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope" (Jeremiah 29:11).
Many times you hear that passage quoted alone, but we really need to read on to receive the full instructions of that passage.
"'In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me in earnest, you will find me when you seek me. I will be found by you,' says the Lord" (Jeremiah 29:12-14).
The Lord does not hide from us in times of need. Oftentimes, we may be so wrapped up in ourselves and the situation that we don't even see the Lord in the midst of it.
The next time you find yourself feeling alone or on a path that you didn't plan on, seek the Lord, take refuge in Him, and spend time in prayer. Ask Him to help you conform your "plans" to His plans for your life.
Cliff Young is a contributing writer to Sandlot Stories (ARose Books). An architect and former youth worker, he now works with Christian musicians and consults for a number of Christian ministries. Got feedback? Send your comments and questions to CYdmg@yahoo.com.