It is in our very nature, to one degree or another, to plan. In fact, it is our duty and calling as faithful stewards of what God gives us. For some, that plan is very broad, lacking in much detail and short term. For others, that plan is exact, very detailed and long term. Everyone, though, has and devises a plan. Although there are many aspects of our life that we tend to plan out, the area that likely receives the most focus is our personal plan, and this planning typically begins at a young age. We make plans either to go to college or not, which degree we will pursue, what trade we will take up, whom we will marry, the names of the children that God will give if that is His will, where we will live, and more. As has already been stated, it is good and proper that we plan. What we must always remember, however, is that our plan is always subject to the will of God, as is seen in Proverbs 16:9: “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps.”

Our plans, though, are made up of the things that we want and that we believe will be good for us. Never do our plans include, for example, a broken home, a child or spouse or sibling taken away in death, living with a chronic illness, a special needs child, families torn by schism and abuse. The reality is that if all were to go according to our plan, life would be smooth and easy, and everything would work out for our good here, in this present life. And if we are going to be honest, our planning then tends to be self-centered and focused on our own good and what can benefit us. The problem, you see, is that very rarely does our plan for this life take into consideration the life to come. In the end, although our plans for this life may seem long term to us, they are very short term when considered in relation to eternity. This then is one of the main reasons why our plan so rarely aligns with the plan that God has for us.

The difference is that His plan for us encompasses both this life, which is so very fleeting, and the life that is to come. His plan for you and for me is eternal, while our plan is temporal. His plan has in mind our eternal good, not simply our good in this life. His plan is aimed at the glory of His name while our plan is often aimed at our own glory. Although it is good to be reminded that God has a plan that He has laid out for each of us, this is not something of which we are unaware or something we have not been taught from our youth up. The question that you and I must face and answer is, How do we respond to God’s plan for us, especially, as is most often the case, when His plan is not our plan? Is it possible for us to find peace and even joy in His plan?

Sadly, most often, our response is not one of faith, but of unbelief and self-pity. I recall a particular night, earlier in our marriage, that I went into the room of our two young boys to make sure they were tucked in before going to bed ourselves. Their cribs were arranged in such a way that they were head-to-head, and so I could look at both at one time. It hit me, as I gazed down at them as they lay there sleeping, that had I not known better, I would never have known that our oldest son had special needs. The reality of that thought hit me even harder when I realized that the only time he was “normal” was when he was sleeping; the only time that I was unable to interact with him at all. I remember sitting on the floor next to their cribs and weeping. I cried because I was sad and because I was confused, but most of all, I cried because I was angry. This was not my plan! In fact, this was completely contrary to my plan! How could this possibly be for my good, for our son’s good, and for our family’s good?

This was the similar response of the prophet Elijah to God’s plan for him after he had heard of the threat to his life from Jezebel as it is recorded in I Kings 19, where he flees into the wilderness and lays down under a juniper tree to wait for God to end his life. The great demonstration of the mighty power of God in the previous chapter in the fire from heaven on the top of Mount Carmel and the bringing again of rain was lost to his mind as he wallowed in his own self-pity and woe.

But what then should our response to God’s plan be? Consider Job. Here was a man who lost everything that he had. In the span of but a few moments, Job is informed that he has lost his cattle, his sheep, his camels, and his servants. And if that were not enough, lastly, he is told that all his children have also been killed. We find his incredible response to God’s plan for him in Job 1:20-21: “Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped. And said, naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” He worshiped! What faith this man had by the grace of God!

We must ask ourselves whether this is how we would have responded? The reality, as we have seen, is that it is likely not. This is in part because of our fallen human nature and our desire to be God ourselves and for all to go according to our plan. It is also in part because we simply do not understand God’s purpose.

So, what then is that purpose? Why does God bring so many things into our lives that are not in our plan? Clearly, there are many reasons that can be given, but three stand out.

First, they are for our good and for His glory. This we see clearly from Romans 8:28; “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” All that God sends in our lives prepares us for the place that will be ours in glory. All things, both those that we see as good and those we see as difficult and hard. Through the shaping of those things, the great glory of God can be seen, as He uses those experiences to shape us and to form us into the men, women, and children that He has called us to be. Only our great God can do that.

Second, He brings these things into our lives to direct us back to Him. So easily we take our eyes off Him and His glory and it is as if He reaches down as our heavenly Father, and after placing His hand under our chin, raises our eyes back to Him. Think of Peter, in all his impetuousness, climbing out of the boat, after being summoned by Jesus to walk on the water. In mere moments the roar of the wind and the waves and the tumult around him caused him to take his eyes off his Lord and to see the storm around him, and then to sink. We must keep our eyes on God, always. “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:1-2).

Third, God brings these things into our lives to give us the experience that now equips us to be able to come alongside others and minister to them. The Christian life is and must be a life of service, and as members of the church it is our great privilege to be the hands and feet of Christ to others. It is indeed an amazing thing when a fellow saint is able, by the grace of God, to minister to one who is hurting or experiencing a certain trial and express to them that they know exactly what they are going through. God is pleased to use us: “Who comforteth us in all our tribulations, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (II Cor. 1:4).

What about the peace of God that we read of in Philippians 4:7? Is it possible for us to have this peace when God’s plan does not align with ours? The answer for you and me, by the amazing grace of God, is a resounding and emphatic, YES! As redeemed children of God, there are two things in relation to this peace that we must never forget.

First, you and I belong to Christ. The blood that dripped from His hands and ran down the rugged beam of the cross and pooled on the ground at the foot of that cross, was shed for you and for me. We were bought for an astoundingly great price. Because of this, our identity is not in our circumstances, in our trials, in our sins, in our shortcomings and failings. Our identity is in Christ! Our identity is in Him while in the midst of our troubles and trials, in those times when we feel alone, when we face temptation, and when all appears to be lost. And because our identity is in Christ, we are God’s beloved. Always! You and I are precious to Him because He sees us in Christ! He will never forget us or leave us. He cannot, because you and I are graven on the palms of His hands (Is. 49:16)! You and I belong to Christ.

Secondly, as we find ourselves in the midst of the storms of this life, we must never forget who sends the storm. No, it is not Satan, although he would love to have that power and with what glee he would wield it. No, the storms are sent by God. Beloved saints, think about this and take this to heart. If God sends the storm, then He is bigger than the storm and He is sovereign over it. God never promises that He will always keep us from the storms, but that He will always keep us through the storms. “And the Lord, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed” (Deut. 31:8). Jehovah goes before us, and Jehovah will be with us. God sends the storms and keeps us through them.

Knowing this, we can and do, by the grace of God, have peace in His plan. But in the abundance of His grace, He does not give us just any peace, but His peace, the peace of God. This peace is so astounding, amazing, and awesome that it passes all understanding (Phil. 4:7). This is the peace that we experience now in part, but that we will experience in all its fullness when finally, after this long journey’s night, we arrive in glory.

Beloved child of God, hear the comforting and peace-giving words of your heavenly Father to you as they are found in Jeremiah 29:11, as He lovingly holds your hand in His and gently lifts your chin to look into your eyes; “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” May God make it so.