The unknown seasons of life tend to resemble a tall tower. At times, you are ordered to climb with no equipment, no plan, no light to guide, to help or conquer the task ahead. This season rips at your confidence, it tears at the seam of your dreams and it brings to light some of your greatest fears.
It is a scary, unnerving road that so many of us find ourselves not willing to admit we are traveling. We engage in the “play it cool” game when the very lungs in our bodies are screaming inside that this can’t be. After all, you had it all mapped out. Or maybe not. I am not sure.
I had a plan. Sometimes I chuckle when I see those typed words. Raise your hand if you have ever heard someone say that line. Yeah, I have two hands and two feet raised. Okay, maybe that is a little dramatic, but I can’t count on my fingers and my toes how many times the phrase “I had a plan” has been met with a series of shaking shoulders brought on by laughter and heads nodding in hearty agreement.
But let’s face it. We all have a plan. Sometimes they are vocalized and other times they are deeply knit into the fabric of our soul. Some are organized to a T with years and dates, others tend to take the sloppier route.
I had a plan when I was younger that I would fulfill my grandma’s dream to be a nurse. I was on a fast track to pursuing this career at a ripe age of thirteen until I had my blood work taken. Heck no. If I didn’t like people sticking a needle in me, I certainly didn’t want to cause a panic attack for someone else.
I had a plan that I was going to play basketball in college because in high school those were some of the best moments of my life. Here comes my shoulder shake. But instead of the cause being laughter, it was initiated by deep sadness. I tore my tendon during my high school basketball years, and with the increase in intensity that a college game often requires, I tore it to a point that left me with two decisions–surgery or to stop playing basketball. Is the outcome painfully obvious? My heart was crushed. My plan fleeting with the doctor’s verdict.
I had a plan that one day I would marry a tall, handsome, dark-haired man that loves Jesus with all of his heart. Could I throw in the fact that on my “want” list I also included an accent? I pictured a marriage that was full of life and love. The framework of my future relationship was built by Christian romance novels, delightfully heart-warming romantic comedies and sprinkled with a lot of Jesus. In that world, there was no room for conflict or unknowns.
Ha. What I would tell my 18-year-old self now that I am married to my tall, handsome, dark-haired husband who does love Jesus with all his heart? But I didn’t get a perfect husband and neither am I a perfect wife. Have we disagreed? Well, we like to be known as the “silent treatmenters.” So the answer is yes. Have we experienced temptation and trial? Let’s just say Kleenex, one day I could really use a lifetime warranty of lotion-filled tissues. Oh, and just in case you were wondering, I did get the accent. Praise the Lord. It is the little things.
My heart has really been settling on this one verse for quite a while. It comforts me when tears are falling down my face. It enters my overwhelming feelings of loneliness with a whisper of assurance that with God I am not alone.
“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”
This verse is found in Proverbs 16:9 (ESV) and I love how the contrast of man and the Lord are presented here. It doesn’t specifically point to a particular plan which gives the wise saying, as it comes to plans, a range of flexibility.
However, there is no flex room when it comes to how differently the man and the Lord are portrayed. Notice the two verbs here. Plans and establishes. Wonderful words. Properly placed words.
The heart is deceitfully wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). What does that mean? We are EASILY deceived and swayed by our thoughts and ideas and, for the sake of my writing this post, our plans. Earlier in that chapter of Proverbs, verses 1-3 talk about plans as well. Each verse takes a synonym of the word plan. In the ESV version, I see the words ways and work. These words are not concrete. They are versatile and subject to change based on experience, feelings, reactions. All relating to that of an inconsistent human heart, an unpredictable world.
But the next phrase of that verse literally brings stability. Gracious stability.
The Lord establishes man’s steps.
In verses 1-3 of that same chapter, we see that the answer of the tongue is from the Lord, the Lord weighs our spirit, nature, of what we desire. When we commit our work to the Lord, our plans will be established (I must note here that when it says ‘committing our work to the Lord’ it means those that are deeply rooted in the knowledge that our lives as believers are to glorify the name of Christ in EVERYTHING we do (I Corinthians 10:31)).
The verbs in these verses establish and weigh, creating a solid footing for the shaky ground of our unknowns. Even when we make plans, the Lord is implementing His perfect step for us. Let us not be mistaken that we need to throw our hands in the air and grab the potato chips while we lounge and let God work. No. It is a call to trust the One who created the world. The WORLD, people. He has you in the palm of His hand. No one can pluck you out of it.
In the unknown spaces, the Lord is forming our steps. Even in the unknown places, we have plans. We don’t want to stay in this season long so you and I plan to head out as soon as possible.
My challenge is to thrive in that time. Unknowns are scary. There is no doubting that. But I decide if I will be encompassed by the weight of my fears or I can I thrive in that time by choosing truth knowing no matter what He HAS a plan, He HAS a purpose.
If you are in the season of an unknown, know that you are not alone. Be willing to be moved, pushed, challenged. It is hard. In the moments of intense sorrow, these are not the most encouraging words, but I will tell you that each time you make the choice to choose truth you are stronger. Not because mentally you handled the situation. No. It is because you have a Savior that KNOWS you and is constantly establishing your steps. He is constantly fighting for you.
Believer, let me challenge you with one final word.
The steps of a man are established by the Lord,
when he delights in his way;
though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong,
for the Lord upholds his hand.
He’s got you.