We’ve all been there, there’s no point saying we haven’t. We’ve all had that time or number of times when we had planned something or been part of something or came up with an idea and had the ideal outcome made up in our minds before the event or process had even happened. Maybe we have experienced this in our university careers where a set of exams didn’t go as well as planned, a coursework submission didn’t score as highly as we might have hoped or we didn’t secure that grad job or placement that we had our eyes set on. Maybe we have experienced this in our working life where our work isn’t as enjoyable as we might have hoped or we didn’t get that pay rise or we didn’t get that promotion. Or what about our personal lives? Maybe we have planned an event that didn’t go as well as we would have liked, a friendship or relationship didn’t work out how we might have envisioned or generally we are struggling with temptation in life.
These are all pretty common examples and I am sure every person reading this can connect with one of the examples or think of a similar one. I use the terminology of “we” and “our” because as the opening line states, we have all been there. This is something that affects us all; Christians and non–Christians alike.
And when these “things” don’t go to plan, we can become deflated very quickly, even angry, at ourselves, even at God, maybe even using it as an excuse to attempt to prove He doesn’t exist. We allow ourselves, even if you are reading this as a Christian, to ask ourselves “What sort of God would allow…to happen?” or “Why is God not with me?”
We quickly resort to comfort Instagram Bible verses to try and reassure ourselves that everything will be okay…maybe you recognise some of them…Jeremiah 29:11 (“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), Proverbs 3:5&6 (Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight) or Job 23:11 (My feet have closely followed his steps; I have kept to his way without turning aside). Now these verses are absolutely fantastic and speak amazing truths of how God loves each one of us and guides our ways…but quite often what we do looks like this… “Thing” goes wrong, we read ‘comfort verses’, “thing” continues to go wrong, we give up and let off steam aimed at God.
We think because the “thing” continues to go wrong that God isn’t with us and maybe even come to the conclusion that He doesn’t care or that He doesn’t exist.
But all we have done is read ‘comfort verses’ and done nothing else about it. At any point, have we actually read the verses the way God intended and looked at what they actually mean, rather than just gazing over them for self–comfort like some motivational speech. At any point have we actually taken the time to pray to God and ask him to not only watch over that “thing” but to be IN that “thing”. Only when we pray and talk to our Creator and Saviour will anything actually happen…because until we do that, we are doing it in vain and it is destined to fail.
Consider the words of Lou Fellingham’s Build This House “For unless You build this house, I am building it in vain, unless the work is Yours, there is nothing to be gained. I want something that will stand when Your Holy fire comes, something that will last and to hear You say “Well Done”.” or maybe a more well known one, What a friend we have in Jesus which says “Oh what peace we often forfeit, Oh what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry, EVERYTHING to God in prayer”
Maybe at this point you are thinking that Your prayer life is fine…to which there are two responses: one being, “Great, keep it up” or the other response being that you are in denial of what is actually going on. Whichever applies to you, we all must admit we have went through the process above and not asked God to be in the “things” of life, even if its only the once or twice, we still do it or have done it.
We must learn to submit EVERYTHING to God and lean not on our own understanding as Proverbs 3 states so clearly. We must know and trust God, at all times because He WILL make our paths straight because He does have plans for your life as much as mine and those plans are not going to put you in harms way.
Why would God want to harm His creation? because if He did then it would mean Jesus’ sacrifice at Calvary’s cross was all for nothing and that simply doesn’t make sense.
So to bring all of this into context, I always try to give at least personal example to illustrate my point and one I will use is from one of my hobbies, one I am probably most known for, my charity Christmas lights display.
Over the years I have built one of Northern Ireland’s biggest single house Christmas displays at our home in Tandragee (formerly Lurgan). But there have been times when I have come so close to packing it in…so so close. There have been times when I have been working right up to the last minute (literally) in gale force winds (eg. the 2017 storms), hailstones, snow, rain and the occasional bit of sun…standing with hundreds of cables around me, nowhere near finished in order to get power to every light we had spent the previous six weekends putting up with only hours to spare to switch on. And let’s not talk about the fact I had maybe already worked 16–18 hours straight on the display that day at this point. I have come so close to packing it in because I have felt that God was not in this, why should I continue in vain?
But then I realise at no point have I actually asked God to be in the work I was trying to complete, therefore I was doing it on my own strength, so it was destined to fail…of course it was. Compare that to the times when I physically set every tool down and dropped every cable and prayed to my Saviour and Father for help, acknowledging I couldn’t do this in my own strength as much as I could try.
Those times, its clear to see, God was at work…like when a family friend from church thought in the bad weather we may need help and he arrived with enough ladders at the right height to lift our 4ft star onto to top of our mega tree…that can’t be a coincidence and I refuse to believe it was or when I was deflated that lights were breaking left, right and centre, I stood at a distance monitoring the traffic, feeling weak and that the display had not gone to plan…only to not long after hear the enthusiasm of about 20 children, who were the wider family of a neighbour, discovering the display for the first time as they walked up the dark road from said neighbour’s house about five minutes away. I just cried. It was clear and is still so clear how things fell apart when I tried to do things on my own…but when I invited God in and asked Him to be part of it…everything changed…and for the better.So before this is becomes a sermon rather than a blog post…how would I conclude?If we look at our lives, it is clear to see that when we try to do things in our own strength, then we are destined to fail but when we invite God in to be part of our lives, things will improve.
Of course there will still be challenges, God never said living for Him would be easy but equally He never said we would be alone.
When we fail, if we have God as part of our lives, we won’t hit rock bottom because Christ sustains us and instead of just walking beside us during the tough times, He carries us through…
And when we do feel like we are at rock bottom…it’s because we are trying to do things in our own strength.
So next time we have something coming up, let’s not make up the ideal conclusion in our minds…but instead welcome God in through prayer and ask Him to be with us and reveal His plans to us…because He does have plans for each of us…plans to prosper and not to harm us…we just need to pray, trust and read His word how he intended and not just for the one off comfort verse.