Letting Go of Your Plans

Letting Go of Your Plans

I don’t know about you, but I’m a planner by nature. I make to do lists, sometimes just so I can feel the satisfaction of scratching something off a list. You know the type. After two months of dating, we had “the plan” all laid out: get married, finish school, get jobs, save money, buy a house, have two kids no more, no less (we had names already picked out for a boy and a girl), and live as a happy family. Such naiveté. That sweet, young girl had no idea what was in store for her.

I’m so glad that I am unable to see the future. That cliché question “If you could know the day you will die, would you want to know it?” is very applicable – sometimes knowledge is a burden. Not knowing can allow a person to live without a sense of dread. But I can also understand the argument that when facing an uncertain future, a person can feel overwhelmed with anxiety of all the possible outcomes.

For someone like me, I find it comforting to make plans. It helps me feel more in control. And making plans is not inherently a bad thing to do. But I have learned through my periods of suffering that clinging to your plans is setting yourself up for a lot of hurt.

After experiencing so many months of disappointment with infertility God started working on my heart, slowly peeling back one finger at a time to release my grip from my plans, and gave me a new plan: to trust His plan.

Jeremiah 29:11
‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’

It’s important to remember the above verse when your plans fall apart – God has not forgotten about you. He has a plan for you, and even if it includes painful events, it is meant for you to trust Him with your future and have a heart of hope.

Romans 5:1-5
1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

The Lord has taught me that there is so much more to life than “my plan”…this life is meant to build a legacy of trusting God with an uncertain future and bringing glory to Him. He is the Lord Most High, and He is worthy of praise, each and every day…during triumph and during struggle, during blessings and trials. There’s so much freedom in giving up “your plan” for God’s plan – whatever He chooses it to be.

Complaining

Complaining

I haven’t been getting very good rest lately. My cat acted loony and messed up the table cloth. My workout was really hard today – both squats and deadlifts. I regularly struggle with not liking something about my body. I was stuck behind slow-moving traffic while running errands today. I ordered some new pants, and they didn’t fit right. The dogs barked at the UPS delivery guy while my daughter was napping. These are just complaints I’ve thought since I woke up this morning. Without even trying, you can find yourself complaining or focusing on the negative far too often. This made me wonder: is it okay to complain?

I thought a good place to go to focus on this topic is the book of Job. To provide some context, in case you’ve never read Job, it goes something like this:

Once upon a time, there was a righteous man named Job who had lots and lots of possessions, a large, happy family, and honored God faithfully with his life. One day, God and Satan were having a conversation and God allowed Satan to test Job because Satan suspected that under trials, Job would curse God. So in a matter of hours, all of Job’s possessions (livestock) and all of his children were killed or taken away from him. Job was so upset that he tore his clothes and shaved his head (I’m assuming this was a custom of showing grief back then), but still, Job did not curse God. In fact, after cursing himself and the day he was born, he still had the faithfulness to say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” [WOW!] As if the above wasn’t bad enough, God then allowed Satan to strike Job with boils from head to toe so that he was physically suffering in pain too. Job’s wife even pressured Job to curse God, but Job replied “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?”

What an amazing response, so grounded in his resolve to love the Lord no matter what.

It’s true though, God is not only worthy of praise during the highs in our lives, but during the lows too.

The rest of Job is discussion back and forth between Job and his “friends” – Job cursing himself and questioning God about why this has befallen him, but never cursing Him, and then Job’s “friends” rebuking Job for being sinful. It’s a little hard to understand because it’s written in poetic form, but there is no doubt that Job is complaining about what has happened to him.

So back to my question: is it okay to complain? “Complain” is only mentioned 5 times in the New Testament, but only two verses stand out to me as addressing this question:

James 5:9
Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door.

and

1 Peter 4:9
Be hospitable to one another without complaint.

After contemplating these verses, and talking more with my husband, I don’t think the act of complaining is in and of itself wrong, but I think it steers your thoughts and attitude inward (selfishness, bitterness, etc.) Perhaps it’s better to ask: is complaining beneficial? I would of course answer no, most often complaining is not beneficial and only leads me to focus on myself.

In life and especially when experiencing suffering it’s easy for me to complain about a lot of things. My takeaway from this is that if I feel the need to complain, I should do so to God, just like Job did, but not to others because who wants to be around a negative person?

It’s okay to ask God why something has happened to you. It’s not okay to blame Him or curse Him, but I think it’s part of us having a relationship with Him to question Him and express anguish or confusion over something in our lives we do not understand. But ultimately, we should trust Him and keep faith and hope in Him amidst trials in our lives.

I like how Job does this in these two verses:

Job 13:14
Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.

Job 14:14
All the days of my struggle I will wait 
Until my change comes.

I love that last one, I will wait until my change comes. It’s a great reminder that every period of suffering has a beginning and must therefore have an end. Someday, somehow.

The Worry Ferrari

worry

On a fairly regular basis I will toss and turn, unable to fall asleep, but also unable to let go of a particular thought that worries me. It could be as simple as thinking I heard a noise and all the possibilities of what it could be, or it could be related to something that happened earlier that day or that I will need to do tomorrow. Either way, I often wrestle with taking my thoughts captive. It’s as if I have a Worry Ferrari inside my head that can go from zero to worried in six seconds (but often less time than that). Isn’t it amazing how quickly your mind can fill with thoughts of worry?

We have all heard that no good will come from worrying, but if you’re at all like me, you probably know how hard it can be to halt worrisome thoughts when you’re cruising down that highway in the Worry Ferrari.

25 “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27 And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? 28 And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29 yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! 31 Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:25-34

So what do you do when you just can’t seem to stop your mind from focusing on those thoughts? I have learned (most recently from The Grace Walk by Steve McVey) that not all your thoughts are your own.

Satan or his demons skillfully study you and know exactly which thoughts to suggest in your mind – but they’re sure to plant thoughts that are in the first person so you may not even recognize that you didn’t think it on your own.

They are very talented at what they do, I’ll give them that. After they plant a thought, I often take the bait and off to the races I go…

“3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, 4 for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. 5 We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” – 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

So if your thoughts are speculative (worried, anxious), lofty (self-focused), or don’t align with the knowledge of God, there’s a good chance those thoughts are not your own. Taking your thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ – or to put it more simply: abiding in Christ – is the answer. Trying to take charge of your thoughts on your own efforts is never going to work in the long run – you need Christ to do it for you. Seeking Christ in those moments I’m struggling to stop worrying is the surest way to stop driving that Worry Ferrari.