Once upon a time…I use to love stories that began like this. Oh, who am I kidding? I still do. There’s something so magical and wonderful about a story with a happy ending. Old-fashioned fairy tales and modern day Hallmark movies – there’s a reason these genres are so popular. Our hearts are naturally drawn to them and their neatly wrapped-up conclusions. So, naturally, we might try to plan our lives that way. I have fallen into that false hope…many times.
If You Fail to Plan, You Plan to Fail
How many have heard (and lived by) this mantra? I’m not saying it’s all bad. There’s certainly plenty of scripture that speaks to not being lazy or sluggard. We should always give God our best and work as though working for Him and not man (Colossians 3:23). We have just one life to life, and I’m certain we all want to live it well..but, for whom?
I have made many a plan that I was certain would give me a magical, happy ending. I recall the plan from my headstrong teenage years, where I wasn’t ever going to get married (because “I don’t need a man!”). I was going to build a wildly successful career and be completely content living with my best friend, while we both remained single without need for marital companionship. But, God had written a different story for me. Today, after more than two decades of marriage, I appreciate how much my husband balances me and complements my strengths. I need him, not for survival, but to help me become a better person and to complete the strong foundation for our family.
Then, there was the plan where my husband and I were going to become parents two years after we got married. It was the ideal timing for us, of course, so we planned when we would start trying to get pregnant and when we would have our first baby. But, God had written a different story for us. Instead, we struggled with fertility issues for years and lost a baby through miscarriage. God doesn’t cause bad things to happen, but He did use this time to bring us closer to Him and each other. Three years later, God gave us a healthy baby boy. Today, that baby boy is almost an adult, but our patient journey of waiting for him was especially helpful to pull from when his independent, strong-will challenged us in his early teen years. We loved reminding him and ourselves how badly we wanted him, and how loved he has been since the day he was born.
Worthy of another giggle was my plan to remain in my hometown, where I had grown up, nurtured life-long friendships, built a business, served non-profits and was well known, respected and connected. I was comfortable and only wanted that sense of comfort to grow. That was my plan…but, God had a different story for me. He paved the way for our family’s move to Dallas. Completely disconnected from my closest comforts and lonely in a way I had never been before, I was led into a new intimacy with Christ I had never experienced. I was lost and absolutely was found, launching my faith to new heights and equipping me to do purposeful work for Him. This last decade has been the most fulfilling of my life’s experiences thus far.
God is the Author
In each of the aforementioned scenarios, I made plans for my life to gain the outcomes I wanted. Frankly, I made myself the priority, versus asking God what He had next for me. I selfishly wrote the ending to chapters in the ways I thought would be best (for me). But, my vision is limited only to my past and the present moment. God doesn’t have these same constraints. He knows all. He sees all. While we may hold the pen (because of free will) in the stories of our lives, God is sovereign over all.
Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. (Proverbs 19:21)
God created us and has plans for us to have life and have it fully. He knows the path to this outcome, and we can find it through our purpose in Him. The sooner we ask Him to reveal the next page of the story and submit to His authorship, the closer we get to the joy found only in Him.
Our stories were made to be intertwined. For our good and His glory.
Our Happily Ever After
As soon as we let Jesus be the Author (Lord) of our lives, things begin to change. Through faith and submission to Him, He will guide us where to go next.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
What I’ve learned is that there’s a difference between taking responsibility and taking authorship. I have to do my part, but I also can’t be lord of my own life. Those plans end in disappointment since my own control is insufficient and my viewpoint is terribly lacking. Thank God, He grabs the pen of life and writes different stories for His children!
From the moment we invite Jesus in, He sends the Holy Spirit to dwell within us and help us from that day forward (John 14:16). The same power that raised Christ from the dead lives in us who believe (Romans 8:11) The Holy Spirit leads us, convicts us, teaches us, and equips us to do His work. (For more on what the Holy Spirit does, click here.) He is writing on our hearts all the time. Are we paying attention? Because He is leading us to our heart’s greatest desire.
What is our heart’s greatest desire? The purposes of God.
Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)
Our story’s happy ending is this: unity with the Lord. It begins in this lifetime, and it (and we) are perfected in eternity. There is no better ending. There is no greater joy.
Father, God, as we begin this new year, please give us fresh eyes to see you, ears to hear your voice and the desire to walk in your ways. Help us see there greater story – Your story – in our lives, so we can submit to your authorship and receive far more than we could on our own. Thank you for always wanting the best for us – our happy ending that is not based on circumstances of this world, but is forever with You. In the name of our Savior, Jesus, Amen.