17 Nov Making Peace with the Life You Didn’t Plan
I know it isn’t what you planned.
The life you’re living right now – the schedule you keep, the unexpected twists and turns, the dissatisfaction you feel – it isn’t exactly what you pictured, is it?
The child born with special needs.
The child you’re praying for but still haven’t conceived.
The job you lost without explanation.
The husband who left and gave another his name.
The bills you can’t pay and the house you can’t keep.
The family that’s imploding.
The diagnosis that took your breath.
It’s not what you planned for, it’s not what you prepared for, and it’s certainly not what you prayed for.
How do you move forward at all, much less with peace and joy, when the life you thought you’d have looks nothing like the one you live? How do you trust that God is good when everything feels so very bad? How do you set your mind on things above when the things nearby demand your time and attention?
There is a way, but the way is never easy. It’s never natural. It’s never obvious.
The way is through surrender.
Deep down in our cores, we all know we aren’t in control. We know we aren’t the masters of our universe, and we know things will happen that we don’t want and didn’t plan. But while our brains know these things, our hearts have a hard time believing them. So when situations arise that catch us off guard and don’t fit into the visions we have for our lives, our very human response is disbelief.
We feel great disappointment, and we try whatever we can to make sense of what we’re experiencing. Our very human response is to work, watch, and wait for change.
But the change doesn’t always come. At least not in the situation. Sometimes the only change that happens is in us. When situations don’t change, people do, and I’m convinced this may be the point, after all.
I believe in God, and I believe my God is good. But sometimes I struggle to believe He is being good to me.
I often live in a black and white world, and I categorize things as either good or bad.
Enough money to pay the bills? Good.
A child sick in the night? Bad.
Multiple job offers? Good.
My good God has allowed some categorically bad events into my life, but from where I am now, I can see how they brought good. My good God sometimes makes no sense. He uses what I hate to bring about what I love, and He uses what I deem bad to bring the very best good. His is an upside-down Kingdom, to be sure.
The only way to thrive in the life you didn’t plan is to surrender to the belief that God is good, and He is good in everything.
Because He is good in everything.
When I am overwhelmed at the circumstances troubling my life, I forget the most important truth I’ve ever learned: “God is love” (1 John 4:8). Not only does He love as an action, but He is love as His identity. Who He is, He will not change, and what He is, He will always be. God cannot be or show anything other than love.
Do you really believe this? Do I?
If we really do believe this, then we must also believe His love controls all we face – even (and especially) what we didn’t plan and don’t want. If we truly believe love is who He is, we must trust what He allows. We must remind ourselves of who He is. We must surrender to His ways.
When I think of surrender, I think of my now 9 year old daughter who never slept as an infant. She cried constantly and was awake most of the time. Every once in a while, though, I could hold her just right in what we lovingly termed “the sleep hold.” I would press her little body tightly to my own, tucking her arm under mine as I swayed back and forth. After she screamed and kicked and fought, she would eventually go limp. She would surrender to sleep after fighting it with everything she had.
Is there a greater picture of surrender? It often looks like trying to make things go your way, fighting with every breath, resisting what’s best for you, pitching a fit, crying, screaming, and finally going limp as your strength ebbs away and you give in to stronger arms. Surrender is not passive. Surrender is sometimes the hardest work we’ll do. But when we do it – when we finally give in – we realize we can rest in the One who’s holding us close.
Where are you today in the journey to surrender? What situations are beyond your control? When was the last time you questioned if God was being good to you?
I don’t have a magic button to bring you to surrender, and I don’t have eloquent words to convince you everything will be OK. What I do have is experience with very bad things that made room for the very good in my life. What I do have is a testimony proving that surrendering to God’s plan is the only way I made peace with what He allowed.
No, it wasn’t what I planned. It wasn’t what I prepared for, and it was nothing for which I prayed.
But it’s what God used to break my stubborn will, and it’s what God used to convince me He is love.
It’s what God used to help me understand His kingdom, and it’s what He used to make my faith more than just words.
It’s what God used, and it’s what I needed. Even if I didn’t understand it at the time.