“Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” —John Lennon (1940-1980), English singer, songwriter, and peace activist who co-founded the Beatles
When I was working on my undergraduate degree at a state university in the Midwest in Art and Design back in the mid-1980’s, I picked up a departmental minor in psychology as I was thinking about attending graduate school to become an Art Therapist. I knew I’d have to look in another state to find a master’s degree program in art therapy as that program was not available at a state university in the state where I lived. However, as I was finishing up my bachelor’s degree, I was advised to go in a different direction as art therapy was relatively new back then, and I was told it would be one of the first positions cut during a recession. Also, the out-of-state tuition was pretty stiff at the state university where it was offered.
I never ended up going in that direction but I did acquire 18 credits in psychology classes at the undergraduate level when I received my B.A. in Art and Design in 1985. I took classes in General Psychology, Social Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Perception (that class wasn’t anything like I thought it was going to be but the male instructor was easy on the eyes), Abnormal Psychology, and the Psychology of Women which was a relatively new class back then. I needed 18 credit hours of psychology classes in my bachelor’s degree program in art and design to get into a master’s degree program in art therapy, and those were the psych classes I took to meet that requirement.
In hindsight, I should have gone into computer programming and technology. I had a real knack for it when computers first came on the scene (mostly word processors when they first showed up in the 1980’s), but I knew I could never be a super techie geek type. However, if I had gone in that direction way back then it sure would be a lot more useful to me right now then my bachelor’s degree in art and design or my master’s degree in higher education/student personnel services, and the doctoral work I did in adult education when I was awarded a one-year doctoral fellowship at a private university located in South Florida during the 1992-93 academic year.
Ten years ago I ended up on a journey I didn’t foresee and I couldn’t ever have imagined or planned for. The career I had for 20 years in higher education during and after I received my master’s degree suddenly and unexpectedly “bit the dust” ten years ago. To say that no one knows the future is an understatement, even for those with “the best laid plans.” While I never had a solid Plan A planned out for me when I was young (no, I didn’t want to be a nurse when I was 5 but I did figure at some point I’d get married and have kids), I took opportunities as they opened up to me. However, I just never saw that major detour coming my way ten years ago, but it has given me at least one big opportunity to create and write on two blogs (my first blog started in 2010) and that never would have happened had I found another job right away (which is what I wanted and thought I desperately needed back then since I was single and self-supporting).
However, God had other plans and these past ten years have been quite a ride that I never expected. And I have learned a whole lot of stuff I never knew before and also to take life one day at a time.
Very few of us are living our Plan A scenario, whether in our professional or personal lives. Years before our failed church plant, my husband and I heard a psychologist utter words we never wanted to hear: “We believe your son has autism.” In 1977, my parents’ future was upended, too, when they were told that my newborn sister had Down syndrome. All of us sooner or later experience hardships that irrevocably shape our lives.
Although each story is different, Scripture offers us the same enduring truth: Every detour involves God’s presence, purpose, and redeeming power. In other words, our Plan B is still his Plan A.
We see this in the lives of Job, Ruth, Jonah, and Peter.
In the midst of his struggles, Job held on to the peace that surpasses all understanding: “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth” (Job 19:25). In the end, God restored his family and his wealth. But it was the peace of seeing God’s faithfulness that he carried with him until his death: “After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. And so Job died, an old man and full of years” (Job 42:16–17).
God’s provision for Ruth and Naomi was clear every step of their journey. Although they started out desperate and poor, when they arrived back in Bethlehem, God led Ruth to glean in Boaz’s field. After following the advice of Naomi, Boaz became Ruth’s kinsman redeemer, a provision God had ordained generations before to protect vulnerable widows. Each time Ruth had a decision to make, God’s provision was apparent.
In the story of Jonah, God was with him on the ship and in the belly of the great fish. His presence was clear when he provided a vine to shade Jonah as he sat alone on the hill, and then when he led him to Nineveh to preach a message of repentance. He was omnipresent from ocean depths to hillsides.
Peter, too, had to embrace Plan B when he became a disciple. But the disruption brought great blessing: He had a front-row seat to see God’s power on display through the life of his son [Jesus]. He saw Jesus’ power over nature when he walked on water, over demons as he cast them out, over disease as he healed the sick, over death as he raised Lazarus, and over sin with his death and resurrection.
The great 19th-century preacher Charles Spurgeon once said, “What if others suffer shipwreck, yet none that sail with Jesus have ever been stranded yet.” This was true for Job, Ruth, Jonah, and Peter—they were never stranded—and it’s true for us, as well. When we accept that Plan B is the new Plan A, we can be assured of God’s never-ending presence, provision, and power, even in the midst of storms. (Quote source here.)
Whenever I get to wondering about this Plan B that I find myself in and wondering where it is headed, one of the most reassuring things I do is to read the Psalms. The Book of Psalms in the Old Testament has several authors and David (as a shepherd and as King) authored many of them. There are so many folks today especially in the younger generations who don’t believe in God or at least the God of the Bible. I can’t imagine not believing in God, and I sometimes wonder where folks turn who have no faith in God when hard times hit. I find great strength and hope in God that I could never muster up on my own. He is there and that I know very well especially in light of these past ten years.
Take, for example, the words found in Psalm 139:1-18 (a psalm of David):
You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.
Who wouldn’t want a God like that on their side? Seriously! Until my last breath I will never understand why people who don’t believe in God don’t believe in Him as He knows everything about us and He directs our paths even when others think our current set of circumstances look like a joke without a punch line.
God is the God of impossible situations. He can make a way where there seems to be no way, and the Bible is absolutely full of examples of God doing just that for those who completely trust in Him, but He does it in His way and timing and not ours.
Going back as far as I can remember Proverbs 3:5-6 have been instrumental in my life:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
As for God, his way is perfect:
The Lord’s word is flawless;
he shields all who take refuge in him.
Along with a second verse that also meant a lot to her (actually two verses but I’ll preface them with verse 13 first) that are found in I John 5:14-15:
I write these things [see I John 5] to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.
When Jesus opened the Parable of the Persistent Widow by telling his disciples that they should always pray and not give up (Luke 18:1-8), he meant it. I mentioned that at the end of my last blog post but it needs repeating, so let me repeat it one more time…
Always pray . . .
And . . .
Don’t give up . . . .
YouTube Video: “Whenever God Shines His Light” by Van Morrison: