“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
How often have you found yourself clue-less about where you are going in life? How many times have events in your life not “made sense“? If you are saying “I certainly resemble that“, you are not alone.
God doesn’t need our permission to make plans for us, which may even interfere with our own plans. I am also starting to come to grips with the fact that, when God assigns me to a task, I am never completely “off-duty“, and that includes at three-o’clock in the morning.
Recently, after a rough week, I was headed to my favorite place to de-stress, rest and relax, when my phone rang. A friend, after going to an Emergency Room, had been admitted to the hospital. That was the “rough week” part, but the call came because he had just been taken into emergency surgery for a bowel blockage. The caller was my neighbor and mutual friend, and she needed me to accompany her to the hospital. She had just left the hospital and was headed home, so I turned around and did likewise. After tending to the friend’s housemate, who is quite elderly, we headed to the hospital and waited. The surgery took six hours, and it was two more hours before we were able to see him in recovery. Day gone, and rather than less stress, more stress was added. I could have been bitter because my plans got interrupted, but I knew that God has His reasons, and I considered it a privilege to be doing the work He sent me to do.
I had planned to go to my mom’s place the next day (Sunday), but I put that off til Monday, just in case. I hadn’t seen mom in several months, so I was looking forward to that trip. It was also going to be a time of rest and relaxation – NOT. Instead, it was a whirlwind of activity, phone calls and text messages. Just because I wasn’t home, that didn’t mean that I was “off–duty“, because my neighbor took the week off (without pay) to take care of both men and needed the moral support. On Tuesday, she found the elderly house-mate in a heap on the floor because he had fallen and couldn’t get up. She had to send him to the hospital also. When I got back home, she was waiting for me to help her take care of some things at their home.
Not all of our tasks are tedious and toilsome. The following Sunday was Father’s Day, and even though Father’s Day is bitter-sweet for me, it is a special day for most fathers. Before the morning worship service, I went up to one of our elders and wished him “Happy Father’s Day“. He told me that Father’s Day is difficult for him, and I understood what he meant. I don’t need to know the details, but that dear brother was hurting just like I was. I was privileged to show him compassion and the love of Christ, and to pray for him, and all hurting fathers, during our prayer time. Love and prayer are the two best gifts we can give to another person.
I have often wondered why God has left me “stranded” where I am, because the circumstances of being alone in an unfamiliar place weren’t pleasant. After getting married, and moving to the area my wife was living in, she abruptly moved out and moved in with another man. That was over a year ago, and she still hasn’t filed for divorce. The first task God had for me here was a LOT of work on ME. He had a lot to do in my heart and soul, which wasn’t always pleasant, but it WAS necessary. He also couldn’t use me to help my neighbor as long as I was tethered to a wife.
The “help my neighbor” assignment has been going on for over a year, and still isn’t complete. In 2013, she first had a serious bout with allergies and asthma, which entailed taking her to a doctor’s appointment. It also meant 3:00 AM emergency calls to help her with her nebulizer. Then she fell at work and seriously injured herself. More doctor’s appointments, and help around her place. She was out of work for several weeks with that injury. This past March, she had a series of back surgeries, every two weeks for a month. Besides taking her to the hospital for each surgery, I also helped her during her recovery. More “wee hours of the morning” phone calls. This is the same neighbor I am helping with the two elderly men, who are now both in a rehab center.
By now, you are probably asking “Where is the silver lining?” Hasn’t God promised “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”? We aren’t promised a “silver lining” when we go through hard “on-duty” times, but God does promise His blessings, sometimes in a less tangible way. Shortly after I moved her, I was led to a very special church…a church where “family” is more than just a nebulous idea. My church family has been there for me and prayed for me during these tough times. I have also developed far more relationships in that church than in any other church I have been in over the last several years.
Looking at the big picture, this whole plan makes sense. God had to work on me first, before He could use me to accomplish His purposes. I have no real expectation that I will be reconciled to my wife, but God is still in the miracle-working business. I have no clue what the future holds, but I do know Who holds the future, and that is all I need to know.
God has plans for me, and He also has plans for you. Are you ready for Him to start working in your life? I pray that you are.