But think about it for a moment. If God's purposes depend upon a perfect resume, a life unscathed by this fallen world, and a Cinderella outcome, what hope is there for any of us? Even for those whose stories are playing out according to their dreams, the next phone call could unravel everything.
For years I believed I was on Plan B. But everything changed for me when I realized God has a plan that includes my story—the whole thing. His Plan A is indestructible and moving forward for each of his children in the midst of our brokenness, disappointment, sins and failures, and whatever else we encounter in this fallen world. He has anticipated all the contingencies a fallen world would introduce.
Let me say this as emphatically as I can: there is GREAT MYSTERY to this.
Knowing that nothing in this fallen world can or will stop God from accomplishing his good purposes boggles the mind, but is not the same thing as being able to explain him, getting answers for all our "Whys?" or even liking what is happening. Plan A isn't about calling evil good or plastering a spiritual smiley face on atrocities. Nor should Plan A ever be confused with the American Dream or any other airbrushed vision of the illusory perfect life here on earth. I keep asking myself how this would sound to a 14-year-old girl in Cambodia who has been sold to sex-traffickers by her own parents? I don't fullly understand God in such circumstances, and that is where the mystery lies.
As I reflect on Plan A, it is really about God and all the complexity that entails. It also includes each of our personal stories—which somehow will accomplish his good purposes for us and for his world. It is about how he is shaping us into a people who march to the beat of a different Drummer, who go deeper with him in all the hard places of life, and who live believing God's purposes override whatever state we're in regardless of how we got here. Plan A is where God uniquely stations each of us in the battle to advance his kingdom in our hearts, for those nearest and dearest to us, and for his world.
So I was encouraged by the email below from a reader responding to When Life and Beliefs Collide and who now sees her whole story—not just the okay parts—as a place where God's good purposes for her are still at work.
I have been one of those who subconsciously felt I'd veered too far off God's path for myself through my own choices as a prodigal daughter who married an unbeliever. Getting involved with an anti-sex-trafficking NGO and joining in God's Kingdom work against this unspeakable injustice has ignited a passion in me and soothed my soul because I know without a doubt that this is a part of His plan for my life that I didn't miss.
It feels exhilarating and purpose-driven to be in the center of God's will.This new part of my life had given me that sense.
Meanwhile, the rest of my life, especially the last 6 years, has been a struggle that has grown more and more intense with each passing year it seems. During this period, God prepared me somewhat for the loss of my mother when I read Jerry Bridges' Trusting God Even When Life Hurts about a year before she died. This March will mark the 6th anniversary of her death and entry to eternal life. Even with the tremendous pain of that loss, I could still accept God's sovereignty and goodness.
However, it's been in the spiritual battles, loneliness, isolation, and conflicts that come in doing life with an unbelieving spouse that I've unknowingly been clinging to my own bad theology. In raising kids who are confused (even defiant/resistant at times) about God because Mom and Dad believe differently, in struggling to stay connected to a husband that I can't relate to in the most intimate and spiritual way, I've lost sight of who God is in the middle of this.
Sure, I thought I had it all figured out and my theology was on track. I was keeping my focus on Jesus, pressing in to Him to fill those deep voids in my life, but somewhere along the way I subconsciously decided that I was in Plan B. Of my own doing, I'd veered away from God's best for me. I knew that He could and most certainly would use it all for good. He'd make the best of it with me. We'd somehow "white-knuckle it" together until all the struggles and pain of this life gave way to eternity when all would be made right, but... this would pale in comparison to the life of plan A that I could've had if I'd made better choices.
So, the turning point was reading this quote below, which hit me square in the face. God knew I desperately needed to be reminded that His Sovereignty is not thwarted or threatened by my actions/inactions or my good/bad choices. Twice I have shared this quote in the past few weeks—once with my women's Bible study group and once with a friend in ministry to spiritually mismatched couples.
"Those who believe that God has a plan for them sometimes encounter another problem—the conviction that they have lost God's best plan for them. They believe that they have missed or fallen off the plan, or that something has happened to destroy it....Somewhere along the line, we zigged when we should have zagged, and now we're hopelessly stuck with Plan B... But if God is sovereign, then plan B is a myth. No matter how dark things look to us, or how big the mess we're in, we're in plan A. God's plan for us is intact, proceeding exactly as he intended, neither behind nor ahead but right on schedule. Nothing—not our sins, failures, disappointments, bad decisions, nor the sins of others against us—can deter a sovereign God from accomplishing his purposes...."Reading these words penetrated a deep, dark place in my soul that I didn't even know was there. It was there because of my bad, misguided theology about God. I can't tell you the countless times I've asked the question posed in the book: "If this is God's plan for me, how do I move forward? How do I run the race he has marked out when I am disappointed with it?"
Just as I felt mobilized and emboldened to act after reading Half the Church, I am now as mobilized and emboldened about the rest of my life's plan—the whole of it, my marriage and the sometimes incessant challenges of navigating a spiritual mismatch in our own relationship, raising kids, etc. It truly is only in life's struggles that we actually "pick up our theology and begin to use it."
I'm only halfway through the book but I can already attest to this: "The payoff for everything we have learned about God comes when we embrace our theology and cling to him...(this) gives our faith a solid footing and puts our unbelief to flight."
This is music to my ears.