Does God Have a Plan?

Life has been busy and complicated of late.  Seasons like this sprinkle the timeline of our lives like snow (sometimes like a blizzard).  Busy doing what needs to be done…what has to be done.  Running to and fro.  Dealing with the challenges life has.  Aging parents.  Health concerns.  The future.  It seems as though everything else gets pushed aside.  Our good intentions become just that, intentions; things dreamed of or planned, but never coming to fruition.  The out-of-control elements of the day dictate its course.  Sometimes we simply feel like we are bobbing on the waves, being pushed to and fro, struggling to keep our heads above, at the mercy of the tide.

But then there is Christmas.  And there is Christ.  The reminder that the God of all the universe is mindful of me.  He knows of my struggle.  He knows my frame.  There is the reminder that through it all God has a plan.  He has a plan and purpose for all of the ups and downs of this life.  He is in control and always has been.  Nothing comes to pass in my life that has not already been permitted by His hand.  Permitted for His purpose, ultimately for His glory and my refinement.

And in the times where doubt grips my soul, in the moments where I wonder if God is there, is He hearing, is He seeing, does He know, I am reminded that God has always had a plan since the dawn of man, since His beginning, of which there was none.  He heard the cries of His people.  He saw their great need for redemption, and He knew the course that needed to be taken.  He always had a plan, and that plan began with Christ.

This Christmas I am reminded that God has a plan.  His plan not only meets the challenges of my day but my greatest need of all.  This plan to bring a Savior is the heart of Christmas.  It is the coming of Christ.  It is God in human form, coming to live among men, coming to die, coming to conquer sin and death, coming for me.

So if this season, be it the Christmas season or this season of life, has you wondering if God has a plan, know that yes indeed He does.  His plans are unfolding with each new day, with each new breath He gives.  He sees the grand picture and is piecing it together in His perfect timing, in His perfect way.

Let this Christmas be a reminder that God, who has orchestrated the redemption of  my soul, is working out His perfect plan in this day and the days to follow.

 

Experiencing Peace In Times of Uncertainty

Life is uncertain.  Changes and challenges often rattle us to the core with little or no forewarning.  Sickness.  Brokenness.  Rebellion.   They’ve all stepped over the welcome mat and entered into our lives as uninvited guests.  They provoke us to fear and anger, bring disappointment and doubt, and cause us to fret and worry.  Can there truly be a sense of peace and calmness amidst the storms and trials of this life?

A few weeks ago I felt prompted to make an appointment with a cardiologist.  With such a long-standing bout of Lyme Disease and the full knowledge of its potential effects on one’s heart, I felt the need to get a baseline reading on my heart health.  It’s funny, sickness and testing are not foreign to me.  I’ve never experienced true stress and anxiety at the doctor’s office or during testing.  However, this all changed the very moment that I opened the door to the cardiologist’s office.  I was overcome with such a sense of panic, like none I had ever experienced before.  And, if you didn’t realize, there is absolutely no way to mask or hide anxiety at the cardiologist.  After my initial visit, the doctor arranged for a whole host of tests to be completed over the course of the next several weeks.  One by one I completed the tests, all coming back as normal.  The last of the tests was scheduled to be completed at the doctor’s office.  This last test did not produce such stellar results.  The doctor speculated as to the cause and requested further testing.

This normally strong woman simply fell apart as she left the office.   I emerged back home a blubbering mess.  For the remainder of the day I felt such a cloud of darkness hovering over me as the tears flowed.  I didn’t pray.  I didn’t open God’s Word.  I didn’t recall the many verses I knew.  I didn’t remember God’s goodness.  Instead I chose to question, doubt, and allow the seeds of anger to spring to life.

The next day the doctor’s office called asking me to come in again for additional testing in a few days.  Once again fear enveloped me and held on with an intense grip.  Realizing my weakness, I reached out to a few friends asking them to pray for me.

With a few days to wait for my testing, the Lord laid these thoughts on my heart.  I’ll call them  “The Six R’s of Resting in God When Life is Uncertain,” and they have served as a good reminder to me.

  • Remember
    • Remember the many promises of God.  Call to mind the portions of scripture that you have hidden in your heart for moments such as this.  Rehearse them.  Recite them.  Reflect on them.  Repeat again and again.   Our God is a promise keeper.  He is unable to do anything less than keep the promises  that fill His Word.  Here are but a few:
  • Reach 
    • Reach out to the Lord immediately without delay.  He knows our troubles before we ourselves do.  He is concerned for us.  He is near to us.  We need only to call out to Him.  Push aside all the other voices of fear, doubt, and anxiety and come before the throne of the Lord.
      • The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”  Psalm 34:18
    • Reach for His Word.  Read the familiar promises in His Word, but delve further into the scriptures to uncover new truths and promises that may have previously gone unnoticed.  Pray that the Lord would open up His Word to you in new and exciting and comforting ways.
    • Reach for trusted friends.  Be honest.  Take down the facade of strength and ask for faithful friends to uphold you in prayer.  Tell them in what ways you are struggling.  Share specific requests.  Set aside pride and ask for prayer.
      • For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. ” I Peter 3:12
  • Release
    • We are all human with God-given emotions.  Our initial response to hardship is not to celebrate.  If you are anything like me, I need to let out one really good and hefty cry.   God understands our frame; He knows our weakness.  Cry out to Him not in anger or frustration but as a child coming to their parent for comfort.  I literally envision the arms of the Lord wrapped around me.
      • For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.”  Hebrews 4:15
  • Reflect
    • Think back and remember all that the Lord has already done for you.  Look back to past valleys and see how the Lord has walked with you through those times.  Remember His faithfulness.  Remember His strength.  Remember His goodness.  Let memories flood your mind.  I often marvel at how the Israelites second guessed God and His power.  They had gazed upon miracles with their own eyes, yet they doubted God.  In my own moments of weakness, I’ve realized how easy it is to forget what God has done.  His work at times can become a distant memory.  Bring them to the forefront of your mind.  Remember and reflect on all that He has done.  He has been faithful and will continue to be.
  • Resist
    • The evil one would like nothing more than to fill your heart with doubt, depression, and despair.  We leave these doors wide open when we turn away from our Lord during challenging times.   The moment we divert our eyes from our Father, the devil will be quick to catch our gaze and to fill our hearts and minds with blatant lies.  We will question the goodness of God, doubt His love, and question His sovereignty.
      • Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”  James 4:7
  • Rest
    • Find rest and peace in the Lord.  He alone is in control.  He alone is sovereign.  He alone cares for His children as no other could.  Hand this over to Him.
      • You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”  Isaiah 26:3 
      •  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7 
      • “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

So, can there indeed be peace in the midst of the storms and trials of life?  Without God, peace will be elusive.  But with God, all things are possible.

Giving Thanks in All Things

As we gather together over the coming days our minds will naturally reflect upon all that we have to be thankful for.   And while it is important for us to reflect and remember that we are truly blessed, while we need to remind ourselves that we indeed have much, will we remember the challenges of this life?  Will we allow our thoughts to go back to the tough times?  Will we give thanks for those valleys?  For the struggles?  For the life lessons learned through failures, tears, wrong turns, and mistakes?  For us to truly say that we give thanks in all things, we must look at those times where the Lord was at work and call them good.

God’s intervening work in our lives is part of a master plan, a script crafted before our first breath was taken, a course plotted before time began.   Rarely are our stories uneventful.  They are often dotted with high mountain top experiences and low valley moments.  Our natural tendency is to give thanks to the Lord while we stand tall upon the mountain top.  We praise Him for victories; we call Him good when all in our life appears good.

But what about those valleys?  What about those not-so-lovely moments of life when we are stretched beyond our comfort zone, when we are struggling, when God’s refining work is indeed remaking us?  Honestly, calling God good in those times can be challenging.  Yet, again, if we believe that God is good, we must acknowledge that He is ALWAYS good.

As I reflect this morning on what I have to be thankful for, I am allowing my mind to go back to the unsavory moments of my life.  I am permitting myself the time to remember the low times, the scary times, the times full of tears, uncertainty and anguish.  For when I recollect those moments now, I can truly see the goodness of the Lord; I can see how His hand was at work in my life.  I can see that His glorious plan for my life was unfolding, and I give thanks.

So today I offer thanks.  I give thanks to the Lord for He is keenly aware of me and my state.  I give thanks because my life is not insignificant to Him.  I give thanks because He cares enough to intervene.  I give thanks because He changes paths and makes a new way.  I give thanks because I am never too far out of reach.  I give thanks because God is not finished with me yet.  I give thanks that I can come before Him just as I am so I no longer have to remain just as I am.  I am thankful for forgiveness, grace, and mercy.   I am thankful for my story…full of miry pits…with its moments of despair and hardships.  I give thanks for the gut wrenching moments and extended seasons that have allowed me to see the goodness of God, to see His hand at work in my life, to see hope and change.  I thank Him for sickness and loss and failings.  I am thankful that I can stand outside of the valley and truly say God is always good.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
I Thessalonians 5:16-18