When Life Doesn't Go According to Your Plans
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” -James 1:7
When I was in high school, I mapped out the exact course of my life. I planned to have the picture-perfect job out of college, music and writing hobbies on the side, be married to the man of my dreams by the age of 24, and a family by 27. We’d own a home with an awesome backyard, a family dog, and live near my family so my kids could hang out with their grandparents all the time and grow up the way I did. Everything looked great on paper; blessing and provision - exactly as I wanted and expected it to be.
The reality is that nothing happened the way I planned. I’m currently 26-years-old, very independent, and still single without a prospect in sight. I have a great job right now, but it has taken me six years of wading through positions of uncertainty, prayer, and frustration to get here. I now have a fantastic apartment to myself an hour away from home. I’m still close with my family, but my dad (after a hard battle with pulmonary fibrosis) passed away in 2012.
I am a self-professed control-freak. I sometimes have a very difficult time believing I don’t have control over circumstances, people, or things. Call it DNA, upbringing, pride or personality, but it is somehow engrained within me that being in charge and in control at all times is a good thing. When my finances, relationships, schedules, health and daily routines – just to name a few – are all running smoothly and balanced, I feel calm and in control.
Then, enters the unpredictability of life. Nothing is permanent on this earth. Nothing is ever the same. What we consider normal today can change in the blink of an eye tomorrow. You can lose your job or your loved ones. Friends can betray us. Family members can cause strife. Schedules should come with disclaimers that read “subject to change at any given moment.” We get sick. We get tired. We get overwhelmed.
How is someone like me supposed to cope with a life that is so unpredictable?!
I am currently the Worship Director of my church. I arrange the sets for Sunday, gather the team for Wednesday night practice, and lead worship on Sunday morning by playing guitar and singing. I love playing guitar. I’m a singer/songwriter, and was even the lead singer and guitarist for my punk rock band back in high school (although I still cringe when I hear our recordings). Music is like breathing for me. A life-source. And three months ago, my perfect little bubble of capability and talent burst when my left hand began to go numb while playing a set. I pushed through, but started to feel pain in my elbow.
After a few weeks of this discomfort and pain, I decided to visit my doctor, who referred me to someone else, who referred me to physical therapy for treatment of an inflamed ulnar nerve. All that to say, I haven’t been able to play my guitar in over three months and have lost a lot of the strength needed in that arm. There hasn’t been a lot of progress in the healing. Even though it’s something so small, I’ve been sad. I’ve been confused. I’ve been frustrated that I physically cannot do something I am so passionate about, and that I am powerless to fix this problem!
When I think of blessings and provision, the first thing that comes to mind is a cookie-cutter image of a Thanksgiving meal being shared by a large family - grandparents, parents, and a whole slew of children of all ages, gathered around a big table piled high with turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing and the works.
But what about the evidence of God’s blessing and provision in the hard times?
The Lord promises to never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:8), but I’ll admit, in those times when I’m facing a situation so completely out of my control, I forget this promise. When life is not turning out the way you want it to, how can you fully turn your heart to God and remember His promises?
Despite my control-freak tendencies, I have learned (especially over the past few years) that this life is not mine.
Though it’s been a process, and I’m not even close to fully understanding it yet, the evidence of God’s provision, blessing, and unfailing love is everywhere in my life. There is a bigger picture. Some of God’s greatest provisions and blessings come in the form of closed doors, giving us a gentle, but clear, “No,” “Not yet,” or impossible circumstances that have no other answer but to trust Him.
It may not be obvious sometimes, but He’s in control, and He takes care of us even in the small things. And those small things are what I choose to remember to thank Him for every single day.
Because it’s a choice.
I can choose to remember the ways He comes through for me, my family, friends, church and beyond. I can choose to thank Him daily for the ways He has blessed and provided for me, even if it’s not the cookie-cutter dream I had planned for myself.
Or, I can choose to get hung up on the stress, uncertainty and disappointments, and forget. The first choice leads to peace, contentment and confidence that no matter what, His promises are true and the evidence of His blessing and provision in our lives is everywhere. It may not come in the ways we expected or may have selfishly wanted…but somehow, it’s always what we need.
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