Plans Derailed Syndrome! Ever happened to you? You’re not alone.
Your heart stops as the reporter describes the horrors of a train derailment. The passengers might be hanging in the air or turned on their side wondering if the train will fall further or catch on fire. Frightened, cold (or maybe hot), and hurting, they await rescue.
The passengers on this train had a destination, and their plans derailed – literally!
Also, consider the plans derailed by the recent hurricanes, Fiona and Ian, devastating Florida, Canada, and Puerto Rico.
Most of us, fortunately, have never experienced a train derailment. or even the devastation of a hurricane, but we’ve all known times when plans didn’t work out. Sometimes it is serious. You feel like you are hanging on for dear life and wonder why God doesn’t rescue you from this mess. Divorce, illness, a death, financial struggles, job loss, a pandemic, a natural disaster, fill in the blank _____________________.
Sometimes it’s more mundane; a canceled flight or rain on an outdoor event. It is more of a disappointment than a life-changing event, but still difficult to accept or understand.
I LEARNED THIS “PLANS DERAILED” LESSON THE HARD WAY RECENTLY
I started writing this blog a month ago and put it on hold until October. As a result, I had forgotten what I was writing about until I opened this post to finish October’s article.
The article was so appropriate for what was going on in my life that it felt like it was (as we say today) a “God thing,”
You see, my aunt came to visit from out of state at the end of September, and we were looking forward to spending time together. After my aunt left my home I was Texas bound!
Well, it started out great. My aunt arrived safely, and we spent a couple of days exploring the area I live in, playing games, and catching up. Meanwhile, I already had luggage open and began “Texas” packing.
Then it happened. Sickness hit my husband, then my aunt, then me! My aunt stayed with us a little longer until she felt well enough to move on to the next part of her visit. However, everywhere she turned there was an illness, kidney stones, or other problems. She ended up heading back to Florida early.
To make matters worse, all this illness prevented me from attending my daughter-in laws baby shower and visiting my other grandchildren in Texas. Yep, plans derailed all over the place!
So, what was my reaction? Well, disappointed to say the least.
I wasn’t upset with God. Of course not! Well, maybe a little.
YES, THERE IS SCRIPTURE THAT TALKS ABOUT PLANS AND HOW WE SHOULD VIEW THEM
People in biblical times were just like us. They made plans: “Today or tomorrow we will go to some city. We will stay there a year, do business, and make money” (James 4:13).
James responds to this statement: ” But you do not know what will happen tomorrow! Your life is like a mist. You can see it for a short time, but then it goes away” (James 4: 14).
We structure plans like they are written in stone, but they are not.
THINK MARY DIDN’T SUFFER ‘PLANS DERAILED’ SYNDROME?
Engaged and looking forward to a life with a man she loved while raising her children in the community she called home. Then an angel appeared to Mary and blessed her with the greatest honor bestowed on any woman. (Luke 1: 26-33)
Well, this honor turned her life upside down! Undoubtedly, people judged her unmarried pregnancy. And, assuredly, her friends and family thought she was either insane or a liar when she claimed she was a virgin. She knew Joseph would leave her – or worse have her stoned to death.
Of course, God intervened and Joseph stayed by her side. However, even after this is all worked out:
THERE WAS NO ROOM AT THE INN!
Mary wasn’t the only one. Just some of the other biblical people who suffered ‘plans derailed’ syndrome with grace include: Joseph (Genesis 37 & 50: 14-19), Moses (Deut. 32: 48-52 & 34), and Paul (Acts 9)
SO WE SHOULDN’T MAKE PLANS?
Of course, plans are needed. Travel requires planning ahead for plane tickets or events to attend, etc. We must plan where to go to school and schedule our day to meet the needs of employment, family, and service to God!
But as James tells us, ‘you don’t know what will happen tomorrow.’ Therefore, we shouldn’t put too much faith in our plans. Instead, we should heed James’ advice and say:
“If the Lord wants, we will live and do this or that” (James 4: 15).
In the next verse, James says that when we don’t allow that God may change our plans it is boasting, which is wrong.
SO HOW TO RESPOND TO PLANS DERAILED SYNDROME IN OUR LIVES?
First, I must also realize how small this ‘change in plans’ is compared to many others.
So, while disappointed about my aunt’s visit, and the trip to Texas, I must lean on God and keep my faith and joy intact. Perhaps there is no other reason for this change, except that we live in a fallen world full of sickness and turmoil. However, I may look at this someday and realize why it worked out this way.
I must use Mary as an example, who was so full of grace, love, and faith. If we live a Mary-style life being God’s servant is natural. So, when plans derail we can also ask: What do you want me to do? Where do you want me to go? Or simply, I know you are always there and I am your servant.
The Scriptures listed above (about the lives of Joseph, Moses, and Paul) provide information on these role models and how to handle ‘plans derailed’ syndrome. Joseph was sold into slavery and unjustly imprisoned, Moses suffered constant (and understandable) frustration with his people. Blinded on his way to Damascus to persecute believers of Jesus, Paul’s life was turned in a totally different direction. Three men who may have struggled with a change in their lives at first, but their integrity, faith, and obedience kept them on track, even when their world was spiraling out of control.
“We know that in everything God works for the good of those who love him. They are the people He called, because that was His plan” (Romans 8: 28).
Click here for other Scriptures that help when we experience the plans derailed syndrome. You can also check out my article, Bless Me Too, God, and read about several other women of the Bible whose plans derailed and the unexpected results.
As always, comments are welcome. Share about a time your plans derailed and your reaction. Did you ever have an experience when things went awry and discovered later it was a blessing? Tell us whatever is on your mind.
Thank you once again, Patrice, for a thought provoking post that takes me back to decades of unexpected detours and God’s faithfulness as I veered left and right, unsure of next steps. I am even thankful for the reminder there may be more ahead! But knowing He holds me fast and goes before me preparing the way helps me. Thanks again.
Your faith is an inspiration.