We had a plan.
After years of discussion, prayer, and receiving guidance from friends and elders at our church, Ali and I finally agreed on the future of our family. The exact moment became an encouraging snapshot after years of discouragement and confusion. I had just picked up Ali from work and we were driving down Stadium Boulevard, when we lived in Columbia, Missouri. Both of us were in excited about each part of the plan for the future.
We were going to move to Los Angeles, California by June 2016 to join a new church in Long Beach. The lead pastor and I had been in discussions about starting a one-year paid internship, and after the internship, there were plans to start another church in a neighboring city. We chose to move to the city of Carson, which we both knew would be the most ideal to raise a family and start a new church. We had this amazing plan, and the best part was that we agreed and were enthusiastic on every major point.
We had a plan. We had a life we wanted.
Less than a month after this perfect snapshot, I went into heart failure. Due to this medical crisis, I was in a two-month coma, received a mechanical heart pump (LVAD) to assist “regular” heart function, and suffered a traumatic brain injury. I had to relearn to speak, move, swallow, and breathe on my own. On top of that, I could not stand or walk as a result of my TBI. Suffice it to say, our plan changed.
On the day I went into heart failure, my plan became futile. The expectations I had for myself were not simply altered, my expectations were destroyed and replaced with a dark cloud of vagueness. The life I wanted and had planned down to every last detail was snatched away. To be honest, I was disappointed.
We all have expectations for our lives. When our expectations and plans do not come to fruition, how do you respond?
What did you expect?
You have expectations. These expectations could be small things, such as plans you have for the day or to get your to-do list completed. You probably have larger, long-term expectations, such as meeting your future spouse, how many children you want, your dream job, how much money you plan to make at that job, and where you want to live while all other aspects come into alignment. Having desires is not inherently wrong, but what if those expectations never materialize?
We all deeply – and secretly – desire to be in control. Again, this is not limited to small or large aspects; we want to control all things, at all times. I’m exactly the same way. I have struggled with control for so long that I can not tell you a time I didn’t. I only started fighting against that instinct as a junior in college. A couple years later I heard a song that perfectly captures how much control has been a historical problem.
Yo What’s a king to a God?
Nothing but a king
A king that God put in that position just to reign
And never should the king test the God from which it came
Or the king gone need a prophet to come explain a dream
– Eshon Burgundy “Control Issues“
The reference in that song is from Daniel 4, and control is not seen as a thing to be grasped. The King, Nebuchadnezzar, had a dream that Daniel interpreted as God’s judgment of Nebuchadnezzar. God promised to remove Nebuchadnezzar from power, but he responded by proclaiming God wouldn’t do so because Nebuchadnezzar had immense power and glory. God responded to this bold proclamation of control by declaring that He would take away Nebuchadnezzar’s kingship. He also made Nebuchadnezzar act like an animal to demonstrate to the world who was really in control.
God Plans Well
When life is not how you expect you probably feel the weight of uncertainty, and when all seems out of control you might feel angry. Most people attempt to force all their plans to fit into the reality they find themselves in. I’m willing to bet there’s an aspect of your life that you have planned and if that doesn’t manifest there will be overwhelming panic. Disappointment would have a huge door to fill your head with doubt and resentment. But, whose plan is guaranteed to bring joy: your plan or God’s plan?
If you’re at all curious, God’s plan might be exactly what you have in mind but it might not. If our plans do not come to fruition and God’s plan delivers the exact opposite of our expectations, we have the opportunity to hold onto our plan or surrender our plans to our all-knowing Creator. Embracing His plan was hard for me, and you might also struggle to release your squeeze on your misguided notion of control.
MaryLynn Johnson, writer and blogger of “Letting Go of Why,” wrote this:
He desires that we surrender our own plans to him so that we can be ready, willing, and available to go wherever he leads — regardless of whether it’s what we pictured or planned for ourselves. It is never easy to loosen our grip on our own desires, but it is the first step to experiencing the joy of embracing God’s will for us.
To Trust or To Doubt
A specific section from the book Matthew always comes to mind when contemplating how we respond to trials or unmet life expectations:
“The rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. It collapsed with a great crash.” The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and doesn’t act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”
Before I go further, read that passage again. Notice something: the storm comes and hits both houses, not one or the other. Trials and suffering come for all of us. Not IF but WHEN the storm hits. The difference is not whether or not we suffer; the difference is what your foundation is when it comes.
Jesus states that if you doubt God and His plan, you have a foundation built on the sand, unbelief and doubt. The sand foundation is destroyed when the storm hits because of a lack of faith, and this doubt can also be seen as trusting in your plan more than whatever God has planned.
Jesus proclaims that whoever trusts in Him and His plan has built his life on “the rock.” Jesus is The Rock, so if you trust in Him and His sovereign plan for your life you are guaranteed to stand strong. Joy is solely experienced if you weather the storm with trust and faith in God.
This might not be the life you wanted, but God has made it abundantly clear that He wants this life for you.
Do you trust God to have a better plan? If so, you can expect this: you and your life will be better off than anything you could have come with.
Jacob Luis Gonzales