When Your Plans Fail
By Olivia Lauren, Crosswalk.com
Do you know the girl who buys three different planners for one year? There’s a planner for social events, one for school/work, and one for finances. Each month, each day, is color coordinated with certain highlighters, event stickers, and bright tabs. Well, that’s me. Okay, if I'm being completely honest, I don’t buy three at once, but when I feel like I have crowded a planner too full of writing to be aesthetically pleasing I buy another one to try again. I know, that sounds like a huge waste of time and money. And it is. But I have to have things planned out. Going with the flow sounds more like getting caught in a tidal wave to me.
Finally Getting Caught in the Tidal Wave
So, you can imagine my state of being when I decided I no longer wanted to pursue my Master’s degree. Being one semester in, I decided to tuck my tail between my legs and walk out on all of my plans—all of the time, energy, and money I had thrown into this big idea of mine. Now, let me preface this by saying I have never quit anything. Ever. And leaving my new program and the new state I so desperately tried to make my home was not on my agenda. You couldn't find this bullet point of "fail at your biggest endeavor" anywhere in my meticulous planner. Yes, I loathed the weekends because that meant I would sit alone in my apartment. Yes, I was disappointed in my school for freely handing out good grades on the graduate level and not challenging the students. And yes, pride alone kept me in a place where my mental health was deteriorating at a quick pace. Proverbs 16:18 tells us that “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” My pride came very close to escorting me back to school for a second semester. I knew in my core that I did not want to be there, and I almost let a haughty spirit be my friend as I traveled outside of God’s will.
I want to make it clear that I am not saying that persevering through hard circumstances makes you prideful. But in my case, I was staying in circumstances that were not healthy nor peaceful because I was afraid of what everyone would think when I said I was leaving. I was scared of not having an answer when they asked me what was next. Because the truth is, I didn’t know. My closest friends were either landing incredible, once-in-a-lifetime jobs or in rigorous graduate programs that would promise six-digit figures and stability (and prestige) for life. I was petrified of how I would look standing next to them as the 23-year-old dropout with no plans.
But here is the really cool thing that I want to tell you about. Proverbs 16:9 tells us that “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” According to Mr. Google, the definition of plan is a “detailed proposal for doing or achieving something.” When I was in my program I had planned my course audit so meticulously because I wanted to graduate a semester early. As a first-year student, I had the details, courses, and internships planned, written, and approved. Per usual, the next ten years of my life were set and confirmed by my preconceived definition of God's will (that was my will all along, but tagging God's name on sounded more secure). I was dead set on achieving this goal, if for no other reason than to show everyone I could. But that was my plan. The Lord had other things He chose to establish. “Establish" is defined as “set up on a firm or permanent basis.” Before I even made my plans, the Lord already spoke the permanent set of my steps. Although I didn’t like it, I was established in the path of moving to a new state, dropping out of a program, and coming home.
At the start of the new year, I began swapping my prayers. I no longer asked God, “What is your will?” and instead began to say, “Put me in your will.” As hard as it is to accept, I don’t need to know God’s plan to believe it is good and best. Proverbs 16:3 says, “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” (There’s that established word again.)
God never asked you to commit to Him the best of what you do or the most recognizable of what you do. He asked you to commit whatever you do and then watch Him work.
Again, this is no excuse for being lazy. I believe that God honors hard work. But hard work outside of the will of God is useless. I know that not having a clue what tomorrow holds seems scary. I understand that all of your friends have their lives together and are on top of the ball. But you have to understand that God works in mysterious ways. One day everything is falling apart, and you are 23 years old with no career, school, or plan, and the next, you are meeting with program directors, applying for fun jobs, and watching God answer prayers that you cried through amid months of heartache.
It's Okay to Not Know
Dear reader, I want you to know that it’s okay. It’s okay not to have a plan. It’s okay to have your intricate plan turned upside down. It’s okay to change your mind. And finally, it’s okay to ask God what on earth is going on and cry to Him because you have no clue how to navigate your new life.
I encourage you to pray that God will put you in His will. This isn’t a light-hearted prayer. So often, we think our plan is the will of God. However, His first step in placing me in the midst of His will for my life was ruining my plans. But there is an irreplaceable peace that comes with the complete surrender of your will. It’s a heavenly peace. Earthly worries and doubts will still creep in and make you question your plan, but a sturdy, unshakable peace will remind you that doubt and fear have no place questioning you because you are no longer the one making the plans. And I promise that the Plan-Maker, Orchestrator, and Father is more than equipped to handle the questions of this earth.
So try today to tell yourself that it's okay, even if it is just for a few minutes. Your Father has a plan that will surpass your wildest dreams.
And if sitting with yourself, sitting in the silence, to wrestle with this uncertain, gray season seems a bit too quiet yet oh-so loud, I encourage you to listen to the words of "Maybe It's Okay" by We Are Messengers and ponder the deep meaning of the chorus' lyrics:
… Maybe it's okay if I'm not okay
'Cause the One who holds the world is holding onto me
Maybe it's all right if I'm not all right
'Cause the One who holds the stars is holding my whole life ...
It's okay, friend. It's okay.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Kamonwan Wankaew
Olivia Lauren is a graduate student passionate about Scripture, particularly the Book of Romans showcasing God's grace. Outside her studies, she enjoys teaching her dog new tricks and finding quicker ways to silence the smoke alarm after trying a new recipe.