When It's Time for Plan B
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Pete Wilson's recent book, Plan B: What Do You Do When God Doesn't Show Up the Way You Thought He Would?, (Thomas Nelson, 2009).
Life rarely works out the way you plan it. Shattered dreams and unmet expectations are all too common in this fallen world, where Jesus warned that everyone would have trouble. When your own plans fall apart and you have to turn to "Plan B," you may wonder why God hasn't shown up the way you thought He would in that situation - and He may not tell you why. But God will always show up somehow. And Jesus promises that He has overcome the world's troubles and will help you do so, too, when you trust Him to guide you through "Plan B."
Here's what you can do when God doesn't show up the way you thought He would:
Run toward God instead of away from Him. Resist the urge to take matters into your own hands; doing so will make the situation worse, not better. You need God more than ever when your life feels like it's falling apart. Don't assume that God thinks and feels the same way as you do about your circumstances. Trust in the truth that He has a greater perspective on them and knows what's best. Run toward God and invite Him to work the situation out for good as only He can.
Give up trying to be in control. Recognize that any sense of you being in control is just an illusion. In reality, only God is in control of what ultimately happens - to you, and everyone else on the planet. Give God room to work in your life, since He knows what He's doing much better than you do. Put it all - including your fear of the unknown - in the hands of God, who knows everything.
Take steps of faith. Don't live in fear. Instead, pray for greater faith and be willing to risk following where God leads you in every part of your life. God's power usually gets released when people trust Him enough to obey Him. So if you want to see God's power at work to the fullest in your life, decide to take the steps of faith He leads you to take. Spend time often with God in prayer, listening for how He guides you. Then always be willing to say "yes" to following Him.
Make God your top priority. Focus on your relationship with God as your top priority above all else in life. When you invest significant time and energy into that, everything else will naturally fall into place at the right time and in the right way. The closer you become to God, the more you'll start to want for yourself what He wants for you, and the better you'll be able to let go of your own plans so you can receive God's plans for you.
Place your faith in God instead of in a certain set of circumstances. While your circumstances will constantly change, God Himself will never change. So your faith must rest on who God is rather than on what God chooses to do or not do at any given time. Keep in mind that God uses your circumstances in a variety of ways to accomplish good purposes, and often what's most important to God is the process of you becoming a strong person rather than just reaching a certain destination. If you hold onto your central purpose for your life and trust God, the details will work out. Respond to your current circumstances as if you're confident that God is there, and then you'll see God in the circumstances.
Trade grabbing for gratitude. God doesn't owe you anything. So give up unrealistic expectations of being entitled to the life you want if you make good moral choices. Stop grabbing for what you think you're owed and instead try to receive each moment God gives you with gratitude. Realize that your challenging circumstances may actually be gifts from God because they're opportunities for you to grow more into the person God created you to be.
Look for God's light in the darkness. When you face a dark situation that's beyond what you can handle, God will provide the light of grace you need to deal with it and the light of power you need to grow from it. Remind yourself of some times in the past when God has come through for you in unexpected ways, and let those memories reassure you that He will do so again. Choose to love God even when you feel abandoned and to worship Him through your tears, trusting that He will continue to be faithful to do what's best for you.
Embrace the gift of community. Don't isolate yourself from other people; doing so will only make your pain worse. Instead, dare to face who you really are and risk opening your life up to others so you can build authentic and meaningful relationships with them. Value the encouragement and support that those relationships can give you.
Love God more than your dreams. If you give more love and devotion to your own dreams for your life than you do to God, you're bound to be disappointed. Choose to love God more than any particular dream so you can receive His best for you.
Find hope. When you feel hopeless, remember that God works powerfully in situations that seem hopeless. He even conquered death on the Cross for the world's sins - the ultimate hopeless situation - to make eternal life possible.
Wait well. It's while you're in the process of waiting for what you're longing for that God often transforms you into a stronger person. So trust God's timing rather than when you wish He would act.
Use your pain to examine your life. Ask God to show you what He wants you to learn from the pain of your own plans falling apart. Don't settle for a mediocre, unexamined life. Let your pain motivate you to grow.
Keep choosing faith. Remember that, eventually, God will bring an end to your suffering - and in the meantime, He wants you to continue to trust Him. Keep choosing to have faith in Him: trusting Him, loving Him, and letting Him change you to become more like Jesus.
Adapted from Plan B: What Do You Do When God Doesn't Show Up the Way You Thought He Would?, copyright 2009 by Pete Wilson. Published by Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tn., www.thomasnelson.com.
Be a blessing and be blessed,