I had a plan that my holiday season would go perfectly.
My Christmas would consist of me going to visit my boyfriend in another state and spend it with his family. I liked his family. They were nice and calm. Unlike my rowdy crowd back home. They were a part of a life that I wanted to be a part of.
Ever since we left college, the distance between us took a major toll on me. I felt like all of my plans were put on hold indefinitely. And man, I fought so hard to get back on track. I looked for jobs in his area. I was willing to move down there, knowing no one else but him and his family. The thought of selling everything I owned just to make it all possible came up several times.
I was willing to sacrifice everything just to be with him. To me, he was my answer and my golden ticket to the happy life I always dreamed of having.
Just four days before I was set to fly out and greet him with open arms and overdue kisses, he dumped me.
I felt so stupid on Christmas for having mulled over all the stressful of what to get my boyfriend. Well, my Ex.
He told me to stay home in Cleveland. And then he stopped answering my calls and texts. What a way to bring in the holidays.
I was devastated to learn that my plan was completely shattered and would never get repaired.
Like, what now?
How does one get over that? I thought my holidays would be ruined for good.
I think the most traumatic part of my entire experience was the fact that I actually trusted God with my love-life (or so I thought) and then that happened.
It was so heartless. So cruel. Why did he have to breakup with me then? Why would God just let that happen?
I felt so humiliated during that season because I had to run into everyone during those holidays only to explain that I was all of a sudden single and that it was totally against my will.
My heart grew bitter and frustrated at not having any answers. I nearly drove myself insane wondering what I did wrong and how I would never be able to “fix” myself because I would never know.
And for a very long time, I thought that I was the reason why our relationship ended. I saw myself as the broken person. I was prone to failing.
And you know what? This happened more than once in my life, believe it or not.
When I got laid off from the “dream job” that I thought would help me shatter my glass ceiling, I felt the same exact way.
And when I couldn’t get a job afterward, even though I had a Master’s degree and experience under my belt, I thought the same thoughts.
It could happen to anyone. Anytime. For any reason or circumstance.
The problem is not that our plan doesn’t go our way– the problem is how we handle life when our plan doesn’t go our way.
Take Mary for example,
She was the mother of Jesus. And though that’s a pretty cool way to go down in history, she never really asked for it.
I’m sure she was quite content is just preparing to become Joseph’s wife. That was her plan. But God had other plans.
Recently, I read a book called, The Essence of Joy: Filling Your Heart with the Aromas of Jesus’ Nativity*. And the author, Lynn U. Watson, described Mary’s situation so vividly. It made me start to think…
All we know is that Mary carried her thoughts deep into her heart. But let’s be practical here… what exactly did this woman go through?
Was she upset when her plan didn’t go her way?
Did fear ever creep in because she lost control of her life?
How long did it take for her to form a plan B when her plan A failed?
Well, these were all things that I certainly felt and thought of after that holiday breakup. And after that job loss and unemployment drought.
One thing that Lynn mentioned (what I believe we can all learn from Mary) is that instead of wallowing in her change of plans, she chose the joy of Jesus. But not only that, Mary took it a step further. She also chose to abide in Jesus.
She most likely took joy whenever she felt her baby move. Mary enjoyed the moment that Jesus’s cousin, John, leaped for joy in his own mother’s womb at the announcement of Jesus.
And I’m sure there was so much more than we don’t think of simply because it’s not written in the Word. Though, if you’ve ever been pregnant, or knew someone who was, you’d know that the joys of motherhood go far beyond simply treasuring thoughts deep in your heart.
But check this. Mary’s plan didn’t go her way again!!
She had to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem on account of an order by the Emperor wanting to gather a census all of a sudden.
Mary’s comfort was dependent on an innkeeper who did the best he could with his barn. Her final stages of labor and delivery took place in a barn!!
I’m sure she didn’t plan that. What expecting mother would?! Certainly not me!
Heck, if I was her, I’d be pretty salty at the situation, regardless if I was carrying the Savior or not. It’s just the circumstance of the situation. Another plan that didn’t go her way!
And yet, she prevailed with the same two choices that helped her overcome the disappointments of her failed plan: She chose to seek joy and abide in Jesus.
She carried with her what she could to prepare for her and her child. Her “hospital bag” was stocked with the things she could use to help her connect with her new baby (e.g. swaddling cloths, maybe some oils and perfumes, etc).
She marveled at the beauty of her newborn as his presence brought miracles of their own…
Shepard’s who were directed by a host of angels to come…
A star that remains a symbol of Christ’s birth to this very day…
Kings from afar bearing gifts to a child who couldn’t even speak yet!
And the mothering love that one has with her baby. That connection that only a mother and her child could experience.
A new beginning to a plan that Mary never even planned.
Every time I experienced a dent in my plan, I received so much more as a result of that change of plan. And I credit it to choosing God’s joy and abiding in Him through it all.
So the next time you feel like your plan doesn’t go your way, think of the two lessons that Mary taught us.
1. Choose God’s Joy
A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.
Proverbs 16:9 (NKJV)
As much as we can fool ourselves with our fancy planners and vision boards, our plans are gonna go God’s way, whether we see it coming or not.
And the sucky part is that when we actually don’t see it coming, we tend to get upset, bitter, and grow cold with ourselves because we think that it’s something that WE did.
It’s totally not. I assure you it’s not. It’s all God’s doing. But He’s doing it for our own good.
If that old relationship would’ve lasted, I would have been miserable.
Had it not been for that layoff and inability to land a job somewhere else, I would’ve never started blogging, writing, and coaching.
God always has a bigger plan than the one we set for ourselves. We need to simply trust it and take joy in it. Because when He rearranges it, that means we are getting closer to the direction we should be going in, not farther away!
2. Abide in God’s plan
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
John 15:4 (NKJV)
We have two choices whenever our plan doesn’t go our way. We can blame God because He took away our control over a particular part of our plan, or we can let God lead us into something far greater than we can ever imagine.
Remember Mary? Like, she knew the big picture version of the plan, but when it came down to the nitty-gritty details, she probably had NO IDEA.
To love the Son of God in only a way that a mother can love her child is pretty deep. No one could ever experience that sort of love towards Jesus Himself past His own mother.
But Jesus offers us a love that can be shared freely and endlessly, despite the change of plans. It’s our gift from Him. And it’s a beautifully calming and pleasing thing to receive, especially when we are trapped in the mindset that nothing good can come from our unfortunate turn of events.
Have you allowed Jesus to infuse your heart to overflowing with His love? Mary may have believed she was most unworthy of the honor of bearing God’s Son, but she treasured the blessings. You may feel you are far too broken to approach Jesus. Fear of His rejection may be hampering your relationship with Him. You may be attending church, but feel removed from His presence.
He was a perfect gift to His mother, Mary. He is the perfect gift for us. He has prepared amazing experiences for the two of you, and He awaits your time together. One visit and we believe the joy you experience abiding with Him, will call you back again and again.
I encourage you that the next time your plan doesn’t go your way to think about your present mindset and circumstance. Though your life has taken a drastic turn, remember that God and His love is still there and never plans to abandon you!
Consider that the change of plan is not out of anything you did wrong, but of something God is doing to make right!
And never forget that choosing to abide in the joy of Jesus is gonna help get out of your funk faster than anything else can. Draw near to Him and allow Him to transform your life into something amazing that you never saw coming in the first place!
What helps you when your plan doesn’t go your way? Share in the comments below!
**In The Essence of Joy, you’ll meet women of the Bible and contemporary women like you and me who will encourage you to discover the refreshing essence of a life lived in the presence of Jesus. Let JOY fill your heart with the aromas of His nativity.
To purchase this book, click here.