I like to plan. I like to plan my day, my future, my budget, my trips. Seriously, I love checklists. A lot. What I don’t love is when unexpected road blocks come along and keep my plan from actually happening. If I choose to not finish my list, that’s one thing, but unforeseen circumstances on days when I am feeling particularly checklist crazed are unbelievably frustrating.
I had one of those checklist kind of days not long ago. I knew what I wanted to get done, I knew how I was going to get it all done, and I knew when it was all going to get done. I actually thought I was being pretty flexible since I had Plans A, B, and C at the ready, just in case. Obviously, it was going to be a very productive, very go-with-the-flow sort of day.
But then Benjamin and I woke up late, the video for The Wicket Gate took way longer than expected, the place we wanted to go wouldn’t let us in, we couldn’t find supplies that we needed. Let’s just say that A, B, and C were not nearly enough plans.
In that all-too-familiar moment of intense frustration, God reminded me of something. He reminded me that He allows annoyances into my life for a reason, and that sometimes He has His own plan for my day. What matters in the long run isn’t how much of my checklist I accomplish, but whether or not I trust that God is ultimately in control of my life.
Think about it. I was focused on what I thought I should get done, and I was determined to bend the universe to match my will. As soon as something went wrong, I felt like it was up to me to try to fix it because it had been my plan. I was taking on so much responsibility for things that were out of my control and it was stressing me out.
I know people who live their lives like this. They have goals they want to accomplish, things they want to see, places they want to go. Then when life throws curveballs, as it always will, they are thrown off balance. They have to work harder to make their life better. They think, “I only have this one life! I have to get everything I want out of it!”
I’m not saying that goals are bad, and I’m definitely not saying that wanting a fun, meaningful life is bad. I’m just saying we won’t get everything we want, and God wants us to be ok with that.
Look at the picture the Bible paints:
Paul, a missionary who both saw great works of God and who suffered horribly to spread God’s good news, said, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need” (Philippians 4:11-12). Paul didn’t have a picture in his head of what his life needed to look like. He was just trusting in God as the ups and downs came.
Joseph was another great example. One day he went out with one simple item on his checklist- to find out where his brothers were camping with the sheep and to make sure they were ok. When he finally found them, however, they tried to kill him! They didn’t, but they did end up selling him into slavery. Talk about unforeseen circumstances! When Joseph saw his brothers again years later, though, he wasn’t angry. He said, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20). God used Joseph’s situation to help save people from starvation.
Life is so much less stressful for those who trust God than for those who feel like they need to solve every problem and fix every unexpected turn. While God expects us to be good stewards of our time and to be hard workers throughout our lives, we can give up our unforeseen circumstances to Him. After all, He is in control of them.
This is true if our brothers sell us into slavery, if we find ourselves “brought low” and hungry, or if our checklist just will not cooperate. God is in control, He has a plan, and we can be content in knowing that.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)