When God’s Plan Doesn’t Seem Wonderful

May 18, 2016

Ding. A text lit up my phone as I sat in a bookstore curled up with a devotional book. “Another seizure,” it read. I sighed, heart heavy. I knew what it meant. My friend was rushing her baby to the ER for the countless time. Another trauma for her. Another burden too heavy for her to bear. My heart ached, knowing from personal experience what she was likely facing for the day.

I quickly put my book back on the shelf. As I was doing so, I couldn’t help but notice the bookstore shelves lined with popular American pastors touting themes of health, wealth and prosperity. Numerous books, all promoting the notion that God stands ready to give you a life free of hardships or pain. Like salt in a wound, their message irritated me deeply.

Later that same day came the news of a friend’s divorce. And news of another friend’s loss of job. And for another, a crippling diagnosis.

Sometimes life can be so heavy. There are hurting, struggling people everywhere. Ironically, my own sufferings have shown me the sufferings of others. It’s easy to recognize suffering in the lives of others when you’ve felt its sting too.

Everywhere you turn, Christians are eager to tell you that “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” We sing songs, write books and blogs and Facebook posts all centering around His wonderful plan for our lives. We buy things with Jeremiah 29:11 plastered on them and build a theology based on a god who only has wonderful things in store for our lives. And we slap on happy faces and pretend that all is good.

But what happens when you look around and His plan looks nothing like you ever imagined? What happens when it’s darker and scarier and more painful than you ever thought He’d allow? What happens when you cry out for Him to take a burden away and He doesn’t. What happens then?

Perhaps it’s in that darkness that one can easily see the dysfunction of a theology centered around God only offering good (insert “easy”) things. It’s in that darkness that you’re reminded of your dependence on Him and your inability to do anything to control the current situation. And perhaps that’s exactly where your faith learns the character of the true God.

Rest assured that in Christ, the disappointments and heartache in your life are indeed working good things for your soul. But they are eternal things. Things with weight. Things that matter. Things that fulfill your purpose on this earth- to bring glory to God.

We’ve been sold this lie of American Christianity for so long that we hardly know what it’s like to long for eternity. Instead, we long for present perfection. A friend recently put it this way when she said, “In America, we idolize normal.” We want things to be status quo and when they aren’t, we are often faced with a personal theological crisis.

Let me say with certainty that God does indeed love His people. And He certainly does have wonderful things planned for them. But when we take into account the whole of God’s Word, not just one line, we are able to see a more precise picture of a God who does not spare his loved ones pain, but rather grants us grace to endure and run the race. He sovereignly uses those trials to mold and shape us into exactly who He has intended us to be.

I love the honesty in older hymns. They seem to appropriately anticipate our earthly sufferings and yet promote future glory (heaven) in a way that doesn’t appear as much in our modern worship music. One of my favorite lines comes from a hymn entitled “God Moves in a Mysterious Way,” by the 18th century poet and hymn writer, William Cowper, whose own life was marked with extreme hardship and severe mental illness. The line reads:

“Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.”

What a picture of the Lord’s glorious plan in our lives. The trials we are dreading will give way to showers of mercy. In the other lines of the hymn, Cowper reminds us that while we might look around and scan the sufferings of the world in vain, “God is his own interpreter” and He will one day make His plan known to us.

And so in remembering that the God of the Bible did not spare even His own Son from suffering and pain, be encouraged to know that all of this pain, your pain, is not in vain. And while our own wonderful plan for our lives might not come to fruition, we can rest assured that no matter the heartache and trials, His wonderful plan for our life is always coming true.

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  • Reply Elizabeth Garn May 19, 2016 at 5:13 pm

    This was fantastic, thank you so much for sharing your heart, and God’s truth. I once heard a pastor say how much he is bothered when people quote that verse in Jeremiah because God’s plan was good, but it was also for them to be in captivity for another 40 years! May he ever move in our hearts to bring about a longing for eternity.

  • Reply Paige May 22, 2016 at 11:38 pm

    Beautiful absolutely wonderful message! Thank you.

  • Reply Kelly-Jane Jeanrenaud May 23, 2016 at 9:38 pm

    Lindsay you are incredible and this encouraged my heart greatly tonight. Thank you, thank you!!

  • Reply Bill May 26, 2016 at 12:55 am

    I needed to thank you for this very good read!! I definitely enjoyed every little bit of it.
    I have got you book marked to check out new stuff you

  • Reply Tom Robinson May 29, 2016 at 8:13 pm

    Good read, with lots of God sense, too. As we’ve recently experienced in our own family, God’s ultimate plan can appear way removed from our own – but He’s still God, and always faithful to the needs of his children.

  • Reply Heather May 30, 2016 at 2:31 pm

    Thank you. I have walked through much in my life and always come back to this same principle. God purposes are often beyond our understanding, his ways higher than ours, and all we are asked to do is trust and obey.
    Really resonated with my heart. ♡

  • Reply Kathy Snowden June 2, 2016 at 7:41 am

    Beautiful and so true, thank you.

  • Reply Mary June 2, 2016 at 8:10 am

    I need help with this please because I am so conflicted about this. My sister’s husband has been addicted to drugs for the past 6 years. In that time he has moved into another bedroom, lost the family business, emptied their bank accounts, disappeared countless times, and threatened suicide. She is the sole income earner, has MS, and is now on government health care because they can’t afford good insurance. They are in the process of declaring bankruptcy, his family is completely at odds….and in the middle of this sits a 9-year old girl. My sister has loved him and prayed over him and tried to get him the help he needs. Her church tells her, “God hates divorce..” WHEN does she get to stop suffering???? When is it OK to walk away? I have a hard time believing that God wants her to suffer and die young from this disease that feeds on stress and let my niece be raised by a drug addict??? And our family is supposed to support and encourage that suffering? When is it OK to walk away from the suffering? Please help me understand this?

    • Reply Shirley Redekop June 4, 2016 at 6:46 am

      Mary, this is so painful, and I’m so sorry. And yes, I do believe (now) that is is sometimes okay, and necessary to walk away, and God is still with you (your sister) with compassion and love. Have you ever read by Glennon Doyle Melton? She walked some of this journey and with experience has powerful words to those who are in these desperate situations and wonder how best to cry out to God and when to rest in God’s care. She also has a book called “Love Warrior: a Memoir”. I pray God’s peace for all of you.

    • Reply Jenn June 5, 2016 at 6:50 am


      I read your post and could not help but respond. We are dealing with a similar situation in our family. Drug addiction is a horrible thing. We are still dealing with that, and I’m sure you know that no one can change that but the addict themselves. However, I can help your sister. I have MS. I’ve had it for 10 years. I’m now symptom free. I would ask you to e-mail me, but I realize you don’t know me from Adam, so I wanted to leave you a video which I would HIGHLY encourage you to listen to for your sister. I’m not one of those people encouraging wild treatments, this is a treatment that is catching on like wildfire in other countries and has begun to take root here in the states. This WILL help her. Please take a look. At least we could free her from one burden. God Bless Your Family! The neurologist is Brazillian, but there are English subtitles. Feel free to e-mail me. I will help ANY way I can!

      • Reply Jenn June 5, 2016 at 6:52 am

        I’m sorry, I forgot to add the link:

      • Reply Jane June 18, 2016 at 7:23 am

        I am so sorry for your sister’s circumstances. However she needs to start taking care of herself and that little girl. The addict can only get better when he makes the decision to get help. He has emotionally left the marriage. I speak from experience here and have been in recovery for some time. If it were me, I would give him s short amount of time to get out of your house. Why would he want to change when you’re doing everything for him? That is called enabling. You need to find an al-anon meeting in your area asap!! This disease is life and death. Do something now before he kills himself and/or you. No amount of begging or pleading is going to make a difference! Trust me, I’ve been there.

    • Reply Sonia Maitland June 5, 2016 at 10:22 am

      I have read your concern and as one who truly believe in God’s love I can only pray for you and the family and to let you know your time is not Go’s time and if you are sincerely praying and believing what you are praying it will come to pass.
      If we are obedient to His commandments and keep all ten {Exodus 20} and faithfully return our tithe & offerings we will
      have a covenant with our Father who loves us and gives us so many chances to repent. Who God put together no man
      should tear apart. Trust God in all things and wait upon him. May God give you the patience to wait upon him….God bless

      • Reply Rebecca June 9, 2016 at 8:13 am

        So you must also believe that an abused spouse, physically and/or mentally, should stay until she/he is killed? You speak utter nonsense. God didn’t intend for us to be used and abused by anyone.

  • Reply Cheryl June 2, 2016 at 9:29 am

    Thank you!

  • Reply Heather Nicholas June 2, 2016 at 9:48 am

    Thank you for a timely reminder. It is so easy to expect life to be perfect when we know that in a sinful world it won’t be

  • Reply Amy June 4, 2016 at 3:46 pm

    Great post, this matches my experience.

  • Reply Keli Coffman June 4, 2016 at 8:54 pm

    What a great reminder! Thanks for sharing! ❤️

  • Reply Ruthie June 6, 2016 at 9:03 am

    I was just talking about this very thing with my Attitude of Gratitude small group. When I was a teenager, I didn’t understand why church wasn’t joyful. All joyful all the time. Now that I am older, I realize that faith has to suffer and to mature. A 90-year-old lady in my group has remained faithful through pain I can’t imagine. The old hymns are about mature faith that has overcome adversity and survived, stronger and aged.

  • Reply Heather Laurie June 7, 2016 at 12:10 pm

    Reading this from my hospital bed it is so comforting to know that the Lord has a plan for this. He will make this harsh trial shine His light to others. I don’t know how but my kids and I have been sick long enough to know that I don’t need to know the details. Just keep praying and studying the Word and trying to live that out the best we can.
    God bless
    Heather Lauire

  • Reply Valerie Gramlich June 7, 2016 at 1:09 pm

    Hello. I work at a Christian church and publish their newsletter. I would love to include this article in their paper (with your credit, of course).
    Please advise if that is agreeable.
    Peace be with you.

  • Reply Jack June 10, 2016 at 12:16 pm

    I could not refrain from commenting. Perfectly written!

  • Reply Andrea Binger June 21, 2016 at 11:47 pm

    Was perfect….had this page saved to read later. Have had such a sour outlook lately and this was so needed and absolutely perfectly written. Time to step off the pity train amd smile knowing God has a pretty special plan for me and my boys. Amen and thank you so much for putting into words what I already knew but was blinded by grief and had forgotten such an important message

  • Reply Gee July 1, 2016 at 9:40 am

    God bless you! I needed to hear this today!

  • Reply If They Only Understood | Road to Recovery July 9, 2016 at 8:52 pm

    […] When God’s Plan Doesn’t Seem Wonderful […]

  • Reply Claudia July 11, 2016 at 5:18 pm

    The ultimate road leads us to be with our Lord .

  • Reply Roxanne July 15, 2016 at 10:15 pm

    Thanks for the encouragement. “I AM Strong” by John Dickerson is a great book with this same theme.

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