A common question that we often ask one another is “do you have any plans for the weekend?” The question assumes that with some weekend time approaching what is a person going to do with their free time. How are they going to fill the hours, where are they going to go, and who might they be spending time with? And of course, we have all had our weekend plans disrupted by bad weather, an unexpected illness, car problems, or some other unforeseen event. What we had planned out for the weekend suddenly falls apart. Yet, when our weekend goes south, we can usually recover because another weekend is only a week away.
However, there are times in our lives when some of our biggest plans fall apart that are not so easily forgotten or left behind. When life’s plans come crashing down around you the impact can be so much greater than a rained-out weekend. In the book of Job in the Old Testament, we have the account of a man’s life when his plans for his life completely disintegrate. Job is a wealthy man living in a land called Uz with his large family and extensive flocks. He is “blameless” and “upright,” always careful to avoid doing evil. In the course of one day, Job receives four messages, each bearing separate news that his livestock, servants, and ten children have all died due to marauding invaders or natural catastrophes. Job tears his clothes and shaves his head in mourning. Job is then afflicted with horrible skin sores. His wife encourages him to curse God and to give up and die. Everything that Job had planned out for his life is now gone. Thus, in the midst of one of his prayers Job cries out, “My days have passed, my plans are shattered.” (Job 17:11)
Shattered plans. It happens to all of us eventually. Life takes a turn we were not expecting and all of a sudden we find ourselves stunned, stuck by the side of the road, and uncertain of which direction to turn. Such events leave our heads spinning and our hearts aching as we try to regroup and figure out how to move forward. It is hard to figure out which direction to turn when you don’t even know where you are. Nina LaCour in her book Hold Still writes about recovering after a friend’s suicide. LaCour writes, “My room is so quiet and empty it hurts.” It hurts when we are uncertain of how to move forward when life leaves us beside the road.
As a people of faith, we are not immune from having our plans sidetracked, changed, or abandoned. Faith does not protect us from such experiences; just look at Job. Faith does, however, call us to trust that God has a plan for each of our lives, even when we wonder if God knows what He is doing. Job questioned what God was up to. And like Job, I have often wondered the same thing. But then I am reminded of the words from scripture like Proverbs 3: 5-6 which says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” In faith, we are invited to lean on God and trust that God will straighten everything out. Now, this does not necessarily mean some kind of instantaneous fix, because we all know life can be complicated and messy. But these words from scripture, along with many others, teach us that God is busy working out God’s plans for our lives. When our plans fall apart, God does not. God would tell the prophet Jeremiah, “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
So, what is God’s plan for our lives? A future with hope. There are no certainties about how our plans will unfold in our lives. The only certain thing, however, is that God is still in control, working behind the scenes, never leaving us to ourselves, guiding us along the way, and offering to us a future with hope. In a world where we have to let go of our best laid out plans, let us not forget that God will never let go of us.