Wednesday, October 19, 2016

When Life Doesn't Go as Planned

We eagerly sat down with buttered popcorn in one hand and a ginormous Diet Coke in the other. Those first three minutes in the theater were wonderful. Plush seats, junk food and loud surround sound was the perfect entertainment for a Friday night. By minute four, a series of questions were ushered in. "Mommy, what's that man doing in the movie?" "Can I have more snacks?" "May I go to the bathroom?" All these questions were nestled between food that was spilled on the floor and kids that got up and down out of their seat. On top of all this, the long awaited movie could've waited until its debut at Redbox.

I chuckle as I think about one of our first movie outings as a family, but, isn't this how real life goes? We have a picture perfect vision of how our lives end up.We predict which college we'll attend, job we'll take, person we'll marry and children we'll have. Most of us are filled with anticipation until our things don't turn out how we expect them to. Such as:

The highschool senior who talks of the grand career they want to have but other choices take them down a difficult road that makes college appear as a far fetched idea.

The college graduate whose forked out enough money, blood, sweat and tears to earn their diplomas only to be rejected by every company they apply for.

The single whose one desire is to be married but has been in the dating scene so long their fairly certain their upcoming Saturday night date is with someone they already went out with last year.

The couple who have been to an infertility doctor so many times their wondering if they should have their own room there. Or, the mom and dad who once held a child in their arms have to open those same arms to bury their son or daughter.

How do we remain hopeful when all our dreams and aspirations seem to crumble at our feet?

This reminds me of Paul in the Bible. Paul, who walked a path of religious extremism and wanted to eradicate Christians, was one day suddenly converted. Paul was a chosen instrument and preached the good news on many missions. He also wrote many books in the New Testament. He suffered, was imprisoned and evidence suggests was martyred for his faith. In 2 Corinthians 11:24-27 Paul writes: "Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm." He goes on to say that he was given a thorn in his flesh and he begged God to take it away but the Lord said "My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness." Then Paul was glad to boast about his weaknesses, so that the power of Christ could work through him. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
If anyone faced hardships, Paul did. Can you imagine the joy on his face when he set out to sea and the devastation when the ship wrecked? Or the elation he felt when telling others of Jesus and the isolation when he was imprisoned alone? But, instead of giving up and falling into despair, he seized every opportunity to witness and encourage. "We can rejoice too, when we run into problems and trails, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment." (Romans 5: 2-5)

No matter who we are, how much education we have or money in our account, there is one thing we can bank on. Life will throw curve balls. It can have us soaring one minute and knock us to our knees the next. When our design for life's course derails, we must place our hope in the Lord. To trust every detour will bring us to a better place. That every shattered dream and ache in our heart will be used for God's greater glory. And that when we take our eyes off our circumstances and place them on Him, He will bring clarity to confusion and peace in the midst of pain.

Father in Heaven,
We thank you that though we can make our plans, you determine our steps.  You lead us beside still waters. You renew our strength and guide us along right paths. Forgive us when we doubt you. Help us to trust in your good and perfect will for us knowing that you can see the entire picture when we cannot.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

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