Have you ever had a plan for life or something you really felt was God’s plan for your life? We dream, plan, design, act and work towards this end, and hope that one day it will be so.
Well, sometimes things just don’t turn out the way we plan.
Five years ago all our ducks, so to speak, were in a row. Several years prior we had finished the restoration of our home where we enjoyed entertaining family and friends. We were growing our four beautiful children and my husband’s business was a success. He had finished his university degrees for a career change and received news that he had landed a well-paying, good solid government job in our dream location.
This meant that our plan of a sea change to raise our children, build our dream house, and live our life was beginning to take flight.
We sold our house, found a temporary rental and purchased acreage on a mountain (10 minutes from the beach). We then completed our house design and sent the plans off to council for approval.
So after some earlier health and financial struggles and set backs, life was back on track, and we? Well, we were on top of the world. Things had finally fallen into place for us. We had no debts, a small fortune in the bank, the kids were newly-settled and happy, and we were excited about this new stage of our life.
But you’re waiting for it aren’t you, that ominous ‘but’? Well here it is.
The five years that were to follow, did not go as we had planned. But rather a series of unfortunate events began to direct our path. The house that was to take six months to build, took over four years just for approval. The pre-approved loan was revoked and disappeared following the GFC, along with our ‘invested’ life saving. The job? Well that is a story all of it’s own, but suffice to say, it was gone too and subsequently, no amount of university degrees, skills, experience or qualifications seemed to elicit another. In its place we received illness, hardship, more hardship and more pain.
Stretched beyond the unthinkable
During that time, we were stretched beyond the unthinkable, strained beyond the thought of our limits, forced to learn to receive, and humbled to let others give.
Whatever we thought we could endure, we were wrong, very wrong. At one point we were under enormous pressure, the most pressure we had ever been under. We then had the bank ring to tell us they were foreclosing. It was so bad, that all we could say for comfort was, “well, at least it can’t get any worse.”
The following week I was involved in a serious head-on collision which brought with it a whole new set of problems, injury and loss of a capacity to work which added further financial loss and expense.
In all these things and many times, we wondered why, pleading with God and wrestling to understand where God was in this, why these things kept happening to us, and for so long. We would cry out to God to take away or change our circumstances for the better, but in return we received more and more trials taking us to the extreme edge of what we thought we could handle, and then beyond.
However, this is not a sob story. This is a story of trust, faith and ultimately, triumph.
You see, what life brought our way to destroy us, ultimately only made us stronger, both as a family and as a couple. It seems that what we thought was best for us, only got in the way of the ‘better’ that God had lovingly prepared for us and took great care to guide us through.
My husband would often say “though he slay us we will trust in him”, for if “this is the day that God has made for us we must rejoice and be glad in it” regardless!
Even now, we certainly haven’t arrived at ‘our’ destination. We still carry the wounds from the journey, our income remains low and uncertain, and we have to take up people’s offers to help pay bills at times. Our house is being built, but almost completely by our own hands and not financed by a bank. We still aren’t in, and more recently have had to move in with our parents to get us over the line.
Yes, we are far from the life ‘we’ had planned for ourselves. But thank God for that.
A life in God, is not about us or our plans for our lives, but about God’s unfailing love for us. It is God who directs our path and fashions us fit for his purpose. For if we truly are his, our faith and trust must remain in him who is faithful. God is faithful. No matter how many times we fall, no matter how many things go wrong, God is in control and his glory will see you through to triumph.
We need to challenge ourselves
What if the restoration and healing are nothing to do with the situational or physical, but that the restoration and healing is of our minds and thoughts to trust God, in spite of the situational or physical?
What if the refinement he seeks for us is a total surrender to God’s will, and the triumph – peace? Maybe life is about a journey of complete letting go and allowing God, who is your creator and lover of your soul, to walk you through this life like a parent leads a child.
Jesus reminds us, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. For in this world you will have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world,” John chapter 16 verse 33.
Our destination is not a house or place, our purpose is not a job, our life is not a living. It’s all a journey which began long before we realised it. It’s a journey that leads us back to God.
So we trust in the Lord with all our heart, rejecting the tendency to lean on our own understandings, but instead, in all our ways, circumstances and situations, we acknowledge him and he makes our path back to him, straight (paraphrased from Proverbs chapter 3 verses 5-6).
God is faithful, constant and purposeful. He has been with us every step of the way. Nothing goes to waste and though the journey is not finished, we understand that the work He had begun in us has to be completed for His glory and not for ours.
As we look at our situation, we don’t see adversity set to harm us but, a lovingly set path to refine us and those around us to be and act more like Jesus. We look around and we see people walking in the nature and heart of God, showing love, kindness, providing peace and comfort in, not just our situation, but also in theirs.
A whole different outlook
It’s in sharing life’s pains, successes and failures that centres our lives around a God who waits patiently for us, knocking gently at the door of our hearts, orchestrating situations and events to draw us together – giving us opportunity after opportunity to know him.
During our trials and through our wrestling, it goes without saying that God is God. He is constant, He does not depend on the resources of the world to look after us, he will not leave us, he will not abandon us, he will deliver us.
Ultimately, God’s ways are not our-ways and submission to Him is the pathway to a place of peace even though we may look like fools to onlookers.
God is our provider, our comfort, our hope and our healer. We have seen him deliver the impossible, move the unmoveable and light the path and our feet. We have seen hearts be moved and hands that help. We have seen God in the faces of our friends and family and occasionally strangers. We have been blessed.
‘But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” (2 Corinthians chapter 12 verse 9).
When all is stripped away, God becomes very visible.
Although I can not compare our situation on a biblical scale, I draw great comfort from the stories of people in the Bible who have journeyed hard roads and endured: Jacob who wrestled with God, Joseph who was abandoned and sold by his brothers, Job who persevered through such terrible adversities, and the list goes on. I am hopeful too when I read, that these stories had good outcomes.
So now, as my husband builds our house from morning ’til evening with his own hands, I hold onto the hope that this will be a good year for us and even if it’s not, God is still faithful.
(Acknowledgement to my husband Tony, for his contribution to this article)
First published Christian Today Australia 06 February 2014 http://www.christiantoday.com.au/article/are.we.there.yet/16807.htm