December 30, 2017

A Change of Plans

The following commentary is based on the Christmas message delivered by Pastor Jamey Houghton at the Franktown Seventh-day Adventist Church in Franktown, Colorado, United States, on Saturday, Dec. 23. Elements of the oral presentation have been preserved. Due to the timelessness of the topic, Adventist Review hopes it can inspire readers not only at Christmastime but as we enter into the New Year and beyond.—Editors.

When my grandmother was about 18 or 19 years, she was engaged to a young man, and they had plans to get married. One day she was reading the paper and read a story about my grandfather being wounded in the war. She had gone to school with him—and had had a crush on him back then. She wanted to write him a letter, and went back and forth on it for a while until her sisters told her to stop talking about it and write him the letter!

Grandpa recovered and was sent back out to the front. He received that letter in a foxhole in the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium. He told me many times that as soon as he got that letter and read it, he told his buddy in the foxhole “I’m going to marry that girl!”

"Life sometimes doesn’t go as planned."

The correspondence kept up—and soon my grandmother called off her engagement. My grandfather survived the war and came back to America. The day before their wedding, the previous fiancée came and knocked on my grandmother’s door to try to change her plans—but she said she just hid in the bathroom and wouldn’t come out.

Her plans—what she thought was going to happen in her life changed—and I’m sure glad they did!

Planning Out Our Lives

We spend a lot of time planning out our lives. We plan for every detail of life. When we are young, people ask us: what do you want to be when you grow up?

Some little girls have hope chests in plans for someday getting married. But also, you start college and plan for a career. And then you plan to get married, to have kids, to retire, to go on vacation—We plan for everything!

One thing I learned about when we were expecting our first child, Callie, was the idea of a birth plan. It shows you how crazy we have gotten with planning! A birth plan is where you, a non-health professional, plan for an extremely dicey, stressful, complicated medical situation to go perfectly without a hitch, with beams of sunshine radiating from your room because you’re having such a good time.

Never once, however, have I heard of anyone having their birth plan go exactly as planned.

We panic a little when our plans don’t go as we imagined. We are tempted to think we have failed or lived poorly. So, what do we do when life doesn’t go as planned?

Mary’s and Joseph’s Plans

Mary was a young Jewish woman who was planning to get married to a pious Jewish man. She was planning the wedding ceremony and the reception. She was planning to start a family sometime later. She had dreams for the future. But then, an angel appears, and all her plans and dreams are shattered (see Luke 1:26-33). Her life plans changed for good!

Has this ever happened to you? The career you wanted never happened. Your marriage isn’t all you dreamed it would be. Your kids made choices that depart from the path you taught them to follow. Your financial plan didn’t have you retiring on time. Maybe you experienced a tragedy in your life that changed everything. As someone once said, “What messes us up the most in life is the picture in our head of how it’s supposed to be.”

Life sometimes doesn’t go as planned. There are curves. Bumps. Crashes sometimes. Where is God when that happens? When your plans are shattered? When you’re scared for the future? Maybe He’s waiting for you to ask about His plans for your future. Maybe He’s waiting for you to trust your future to Him. Maybe He’s waiting for you to let Him help you with your future.

How does Mary handle the change in plans? She trusts her entire, unpredictable future into the hands of God (see Luke 1:34-38).

It is not in Josephs’ plans either though (see Matt. 1:18-25). God—way back in Genesis—directs us to reserve intimacy for marriage. Here is a unique situation because Joseph doesn’t find out what is happening as soon as Mary. She gets a heads-up first. He finds out she’s pregnant, and not by him! Because to him, it appears that she has betrayed that intimate trust, he is going to call everything off. It’s not going the way he planned it to go.

But then an angel speaks to him in a dream, and he decides to follow the angel’s instructions.

A Change of Plans

Nothing is going as planned with Mary or Joseph! It is the same with us. Indeed, our entire life can be summed up in one sentence: “It didn’t go as planned, and that’s OK.”

When life didn’t go according to the plans, what did Joseph and Mary do? They listened very carefully to God and aligned their plans with His.

Change in plans? No problem—God will give you the wisdom to handle it. “So don't be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one day at a time” (Matt. 6:34, TLB).

Scared because of the change of plans? Angry?—God will give you peace. “He will keep in perfect peace all those who trust in Him, whose thoughts turn often to the Lord! Trust in the Lord God always, for in the Lord Jehovah is your everlasting strength” (Isa. 26:3, 4, TLB).

If you want to know what God’s plans are for your life—look to His guidance in Scripture; He promises to point you in the right direction.

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it’” (Isa. 30:21).

If your plans in life haven’t worked out as you thought, invite God to be a part of your life planning, and you will find greater joy and blessings in your life than you ever imagined.

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will establish your plans” (Prov. 16:3).

Perhaps, just like Mary and Joseph, that puzzling change of plans will be your greatest blessing.