Big plans, fun plans – three years in the making plans. Ever have those kind of plans – only to have them dissolve before your very eyes?
Happens all the time: broken down RV on the side of the road, missed flight, sick for the whole trip, something bad happens back home and have to leave when you just got there. Hard to sigh and look up, let go, and with opens hands say, “Jesus, what is Your plan?”
“We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.“ (Proverbs 16:9 NLT)
Whether it’s trips or life – we plan, but God determines. It’s easy when all goes according to plan – but when everything goes awry? We question and try to come up with ‘plan b’ – we blame – we pout.
But we miss the Planner when we’re the leader. Setbacks or botched plans aren’t the point – they can put our focus on all the wrong things, but can they be used, instead, to see beyond ourselves and our disappointments?
“We can make our own plans, but the LORD gives the right answer.” (Proverbs 16:1 NLT)
I know what you’re thinking – but I’m not advocating lack of planning. I’m thinking we often neglect to ask the Master Planner to direct us, to give us the right answers. We go head-long into what we want to do, and then ask ‘what happened’ when it all falls apart.
I think the lesson I just learned from a trip that seemed miserable in every possible way is this: before we get carried away with all the details, maybe a humble question or two is in order along the way. The Holy Spirit is with us in all things, so why not our plans? How about stopping long enough to listen with an open heart and ask: “What do you think, Jesus, how about these ideas?”
And, still, in this fallen world things won’t always go right. Will we linger long enough to see the Planner has something in mind regardless how bad things might look? Change of plans – life lessons unfolding before us. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a future and a hope. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:12-13 BSB)
I’m not particularly athletic. At times I can be clumsy. But one thing I love, and wish I had started when I was much younger, is hiking in the mountains. I can’t do the strenuous trails. But I can walk long and slow and hear the wind rustle and the brook bubble and the quiet of it all.
Backtrack sixteen years ago. A sweet couple took us hiking – on several occasions. Then one time, as we came near the end of a trail, we were on a level path that ran along a shallow river. To get to the water was just a few stumbling feet down some rock. Down went everyone…except me.
I stood there hesitating. I could hear a voice saying: ‘don’t go down’. However, feeling foolish waiting behind won over and so I went. The end of the story is – I broke my arm – on the easiest part of the trail. The lesson is: listen.
That was the day I began to acknowledge that the Holy Spirit really does indwell us. Ever speaking to us. Yet we rarely listen. Or we write it off as self-talk. But once we accept Jesus, truth is, the Holy Spirit is in us.
And there is purpose in that indwelling – our protection, guidance so we can live and act for the Lord, and so we can learn the deep things of God’s Word and become wise (but not with worldly wisdom). “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no heart has imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed it to us by the Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.” (1Corinthians 2:9b-10 BSB)
During the years since that fall, I’ve been on a journey: one leading to listening while also learning to seek out His voice.
It’s such a hard concept to grasp. We can grasp God, a Savior. But we easily write off the Holy Spirit. Too undefinable, too hard to explain – we think. But oh what wonder in discovering that Jesus’ words about sending a Counselor to be with us were not idle words. They were a promise. “When the Counselor comes, the One I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father—He will testify about Me.” (John 15:26 HCSB)
Like most things in this walk with Jesus, it does not come easy. Yes, the Spirit is with us always and forever, but He is not pushy. We must learn all about this aspect of God, this treasure given us in this mortal body. In order to hear Him, we must listen.
A little guy in my life is learning the joys of swimming. He’s gotten brave and put his head down in the water – kicked those legs and made it to momma – and now he’s trying to trust that he can make it back from momma to the side of the pool.
It’s kinda that way with us. We take a step of faith and ask Jesus to be our Savior. We test the water and see if He will catch us. But then we find ourselves (so we think) having to make it back to the side all on our own – we…doubt.
Doubt that if we can’t – He will. So often I think as long as I can do what’s needed to make a situation right, then God is good. But when I can’t cure the illness, soothe the hurt, help them find work – I begin to fret and get anxious and impatiently ask: “Jesus, will You fix it – please?”
We lose sight of the fact that God is way beyond today, done with the past, and has tomorrow all figured out.
In our broken world not all things will be ‘fixed’ like we think they should be. But the promise is not this world, the promise is eternity. It’s not about easy street here, it’s about no bumpy roads in forever.
“And this is the promise that He Himself made to us: eternal life.” (1John 2:25 BSB)
Jesus asked the ultimate question of a crowd one time: “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Luke 12:25 BSB) No one raised their hand.
His follow-up question was this : “If you can’t do such a small thing, why do you worry about the rest?” (Luke 12:26 BSB)
Good question. We get worked up and fret, lose sleep, worry, and doubt. And all the time we are forgetting to look up from our problem and take hold of the Problem Solver. He said adding a single hour to our lives is a ‘small thing’! All things ARE possible with God and all our worrying changes nothing. Think you’re gonna sink? That’s just because we can’t see with eternal eyes.
“He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11b NLT)
Playing the memory card game with a four-year-old is different: when he picks up a card, he wants to keep looking til he finds the match. If I pick a card he really likes, he wants me to surrender it to him so he can find the match. He also likes to win or we both win – no other options.
Someday soon I will have to start ‘winning’ some of the games I play with him. He will probably cry. But what service would I be doing him if I didn’t allow him to experience loss and failure with me in preparation for what is to come?
About 2,000 years ago a brash young man had to learn some hard lessons. He probably thought he had already had his fair share. He was a fisherman for a living and that wasn’t always easy. Living under Roman oppression was no picnic either. Then came Jesus.
Peter believed with all his heart that Jesus was God’s Son, Messiah. So, he followed Him through thick and thin for three years. Then one night Jesus was arrested and when they asked Peter if he was one of Jesus’ followers, he quickly replied: ‘no way’. Then his eyes met those of Jesus and heartbreak, like no other, overcame him. He wept bitterly thinking there was no chance of a do-over.
But that’s not how things are with the Savior. Peter is the one God used to start the Christian church after Jesus was crucified. The one the Holy Spirit spoke through in Peter’s first sermon – and more than 3,000 were brought to salvation.
Peter teaches us in his second letter to Christians that there are a few things we need to add to our faith: “…make every effort to add to your faith goodness…knowledge…self-control…perseverance…godliness…brotherly kindness…love.” (2Peter 1:5b-7 NIV) He also tells us why we need to be adding these things: “For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2Peter 1:10b-11 NIV)
Peter learned a lot from that bitter night. And now he shows us how we can never fall – have a rich welcome – and have eternity! There will be no more hard lessons someday – only a forever of discovery. Searching out the depths of the Creator and His creation await all who accept Him.
This is a hurting world. Broken, lost, trying to breathe. All around the effect of centuries of sin – and its relentless pursuit – swirl. As I write, a friend’s adult son fights for his life – a fall at work left him with a broken skull and his mother clings to God. Babies in the hospital unexpectedly, more moms (dads, grandparents, friends) on their knees.
“I think of You through the watches of the night…My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me.” (Psalm 63:6b & 8 NIV)
What of those in similar circumstances, or worse, who don’t know God? How do they keep their sanity? What is their hope?
We speak of ‘heart’ for all manner of emotions. Over and over God refers to our hearts in the Bible.
Here’s an amazing thing: when He takes hold of us (and we let Him), He actually gives us a new heart. Throughout the Old Testament and into the New, He speaks of taking our hearts of stone and replacing them with hearts that are fresh and clean and usable by Him.
“For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.” (Romans 10:10 NLT)
Honestly, I don’t know how one navigates all that life holds without truly knowing God and knowing the Hope He has given us. “We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing. We heap up wealth, not knowing who will spend it. And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in You.” (Psalm 39:6-7 NLT)
So, a transplant is what this weary world needs. Hearts transplanted and replaced with ones that beat for Jesus and rely on His power and strength. Ones that can weather the tragedies and still say: ‘it is well with my soul’.
For someday these bodies will fail, but those with transplanted hearts from God will again walk and never grow weary, and there will be no more tears (or moms whose pain is not fathomable). “My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; He is mine forever.” (Psalm 73:26 NLT)
So easy to live like we believe when all is well. Right now I’m in the all is well – no major crisis, heartache, or fear. But where will my belief be when…
When things aren’t so easy. A friend is walking through ALS with her husband. Prayer request came through, he was struggling. Another friend took care of a father-in-law in his last months doing things for him she had never imagined she would find herself doing.
I’ve seen these and others walk hard life things – like friends, much too young to die, lose their battle to cancer. And I wonder, how will I walk through the next hard life thing?
You know the story of the father whose son was possessed by a demon. Constantly hurting himself. A father worn out from the daily struggle, worn out from the worry. Then Jesus is near. Last hope, last resort – he asks: “if you can do anything, have compassion”.
If – such a big word looms. In the seconds between the father’s plea and Jesus’ proclamation, hung all of mankind’s questions. Can you Jesus? Will you?
“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” (Mark 9:23 NIV)
I’m that father, so are you: ‘If you can Lord, please do.’ And what we don’t get is this: He has. Doesn’t always look like what we asked. But someday we will see how perfect the answer was. Know how I know?
Because He’s told us.: “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.“ (Mark 11:24 BSB)
Even our unbelief He can fix that too. Maybe we can’t see the answer yet, maybe in this life we won’t see it at all. But someday we will see clearly. For in eternity more than all we could ever ask or imagine is Yes as we proclaim Amen – “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through Him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.”. (2Corinthians 1:20 NIV) He is for us all the time!
PLaY CReaTivEly WitH YoUr LiTtLe OnE
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