Postpone, trace, mask, report, stay home, restructure, test, cancel. In the last six months, we have heard these words enough for a lifetime. Unprecedented? New normal? How about riot, protest, murder, ambush? 2020 has not been anyone’s Plan A. And I’ve had it! My friends have had it! We! Are! Done! Or are we?
Our lives rarely go the way that we think they will. Some of you have lost children to miscarriage, to rebellion, or corrupt court systems. Some of you struggle with infertility. You were widowed or abandoned. Your spouse walked away from the faith. You lost a job or your health. None of that was your plan. And now 2020 seems like a microcosm of all the things that we don’t want–pandemic, political turmoil, injustice, and natural disasters on top of everything else.
I can relate a little. My Plan A didn’t involve going to school for 26 years, or being short, or living in Southern California. I still mourn the loss of gluten and salsa to allergies. I didn’t expect to be still be single, and I thought I would spend the rest of my life in Higher Ed.
The curves we encounter in Life are unexpected. Shifting plans are messy and uncomfortable, and often we ride through the chaos desperately clinging to Plan A.
That mess, those shifts, that Stay Home order, that on-line school–these are not random acts of the universe flipping a coin and winking at the Fates. Change is an uncomfortable gift of a good God for our transformation and His glory.
Take a moment and read James 1. Good Gifts, you say? God is giving good gifts? Suffering is a good gift? And it leads to what? Blessing and a crown of life. God’s kindness is evident to us every day--even in the pain–or especially in the pain–as He teaches us to hold loosely to Plan A in order to cling only to Him.
Later in James 5, we are exhorted: “8 You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9 Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. 10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.
Think for a moment about the lives of some of the prophets:
Ezekiel–what kind of a fool must he have looked like? He was exiled, told to cut off part of his hair, his wife died, but he was commanded not to mourn. God had him building a model of Jerusalem and the setting up siege ramps against the walls. He lay on his side for weeks on end, and cooked his food over very non kosher fuel. What was happening? How does our consideration of him help us to be patient in our current scenario?
Or Hosea. What about Hosea? Go and take to yourself a promiscuous, adulterous wife? Then let her abandon you. Then go buy her out of the slave market and restore her to your side. What do we learn from considering the life of this poor prophet?
Two quick thoughts to consider.
First of all, these prophets were attuned to the word of God. Without clear direction through the discomfort and the mess, Plan B will always be second best in our eyes. But with a the Word of God in front of us daily, we can rehearse His previous faithfulness, delight in His continuous provision, and entrust our lives to His kindness. Plan B begins to unfold in the light of His beauty and grace.
Second, the prophets lived in expectation of God’s work. Through years of exile or imprisonment, the prophets kept looking forward to the salvation of God. Hosea’s family probably knew a life of shame. Ezekiel never made it back to the Promised Land, but both of them knew God was acting and that He could be trusted.
Plan B is uncomfortable, heartbreaking, tragic, but in time, our secure hope is that our good God will make it more beautiful than we can ever imagine!
Spanish translation can be found here.