I can remember when I was a teenager having a conversation with a friend about our plans for life. When I left school I was going to get a job at a recording studio, be married by 24 and would have two children by the time I was 30, whilst living in a nice detached modern home on a nice estate. In truth I don’t remember whether that plan involved God and church but I clearly had a plan for how my life was going to turn out and fully expected it to turn out like that. I am now 45 and life didn’t turn out as expected; I didn’t get a job in a recording studio, I didn’t get married, I didn’t have children and the closest I got to owning my own home was a rented room.
Of course over time those plans evolved and changed drastically as things didn’t turn out as expected. When, after leaving school and sending out over 140 CVs only to get no job offers, I ended up working in a supermarket and rolled with the punches, making the most of the situation, even when old school friends would come in and mention what they were doing, which always seemed so much better than my life. Yet as my plans evolved I became increasingly determined on making a success of my life to prove to others I wasn’t a failure and I was going to be a rich entrepreneur. Guess what, that’s right nothing in those evolving plans for my life came to fruition.
It is why I have to admit that I no longer make plans for my life like I use to. I don’t have a plan for where I will be one year from now let alone 5 years because I have come to realise that those things I thought were important such as success, money, and marriage are actually not important in my life, they no longer drive me. It doesn’t mean that I don’t want to own my own home, get married and be financially secure or even have children, I am sure they would all be blessings, but I know planning for them in so many years is likely to fuel disappointment if they don’t happen when I want them to.
It is the same when it comes to work because when I look back at my life I have stacked shelves, been a butcher, landscape gardener, computer programmer, web developer and a warehouse manager none of which were ever in my original plans for my life. As such I accept that what I do now may not be where life leads me and maybe in a years time I will be embarking on a new career which when you embrace that fact is both scary and exciting.
The thing is that whilst I may wonder why my life didn’t turn out as expected there are many accounts of people in the Bible who also found themselves dealing with life throwing them a curveball, or should I say God directing their lives in ways they would have never imagined.
Take Saul of Tarsus who would become the Apostle Paul. As a child he studied the Hebrew scripture and not only witnessed the stoning of Stephen but approved of his execution. Saul then became infamously zealous in his persecution of Christians, entering homes and forcefully removing both men and women to throw them in to prison for their beliefs. I would think that Saul probably thought to himself he would do this for a while and rise up the ranks, receiving honour for his ruthless actions. Yet in Acts 9:3-9 we read about his road to Damascus conversion as he is confronted by Jesus and suddenly Saul’s life does a complete about turn and he goes from being this notorious persecutor of Christians to being Paul the Apostle who wrote much of the New Testament and being persecuted for his faith.
The Apostle Paul is not the only one as there is of course Joseph in the Old Testament who was firstly betrayed by his brothers, now that must have felt like a kick in the gut when he probably thought he would be following in his father’s footsteps. But then he was sold in to slavery and thrown in to prison after his master’s wife tried to seduce him, he must have wondered why as I am sure he didn’t plan to spend time in prison. Yet of course Joseph’s story doesn’t end there and he ends up second in command over all of Egypt who finds himself in a position of power when his brothers need help. Think about that, he went from being nothing, a prisoner, to greatness and in a position to help his estranged family in a time of trouble, if that doesn’t encourage those of us going through a hard time, a tough season of troubles I don’t know what will. In fact I have to tell you just typing this makes me excited for what God can do in my life as it feels like I have gone through a long, tough season but anything is possible and I am expecting change.
I could go on because there are others in the Bible whose lives certainly didn’t play out as they planned yet each of them ended up doing the Lord’s work, being part of the bigger plan. And that is what we need to remember, God has a plan for each and every one of us and in my case it certainly feels like those plans I had for my life were completely out of synch with what God’s plans for my life are. Maybe that is how it feels to you especially when you look around at your friends and wonder why their lives have turned out like you had hoped yours would. But God definitely knows what he is doing, even if he leaves us in the dark at times, most likely for our own benefit.
Here is a simple thing to remember when the going gets tough and you think your season of trouble will never end: God loves you so much that he actually sent his son to die for you. As such of course he wants the best for you even if it means you have to be patient and endure things that don’t make sense. Remember God doesn’t operate on the same time frame as us, his timing is perfect, and he certainly doesn’t think like we do.
So if right now you are stuck wondering why life didn’t turn out as expected just remember that God not only loves you but we need to live in expectation because he has a plan for our lives and there are exciting times ahead for each of us.