“If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.” – Woody Allen
When we first moved out to LA, my friend’s mother sent me a book: Shattered Dreams by Larry Crabb. I barely made it through the first chapter and shoved it as far back in my bookcase as possible. Crabb’s point was that God uses the pain of shattered dreams to help us discover our desire for Him, an idea that I was highly keen on ignoring, especially with my budding hopes of making it big in the movie biz. My subsequent failure to make any headway in my goals for the next few years did not induce any more fondness for the book’s premise.
7 years later – basically a few days ago – I was in the shower talking to God about how worried I was for my future. At this time, I had willingly turned down my steady, well-paying job to focus on applying for screenwriting fellowships – a process that eschews stability and offers a minuscule chance of payoff, but one I felt God leading me to try. Lately, in times of doubt, I attempt to remember the times that God has come through for me, but on this occasion, God prodded me in a different direction: he reminded me of all my plans that He had destroyed. It was an sobering moment as I reminisced about the deaths of the hopes and dreams I had so carefully groomed – and realized how much better off I was now because of it.
The theme of God destroying our plans is an uncomfortable but very real one. Joseph went from the favored son to being betrayed by his family, sold into slavery, and then landed in prison (to be fair, he must have been a enormous prick to his brothers). David went from being the anointed ruler-to-be and a highly-esteemed friend of the royal family to being hunted by his own nation and it’s jealous king. Even Mary, who was set to live a quiet, normal life with Joseph, saw those plans dashed to the ground as an angel proclaimed her future as a social outcast with a high probability of being stoned. We are fooling ourselves if we think God is somehow beholden to our plans. He is more than willing to take us on other routes, drastic as they may be.
But the journey – and its subsequent inheritance – does not end there. God’s purpose in breaking our strategies is so that He can move us into His far greater ambitions for our lives. We see Joseph learn humility and then become the Viceroy of Egypt. David not only strengthens his dependence on God through his trials, he becomes Israel’s greatest king (though still not without some incredible gaping flaws). And Mary endures shame and misunderstanding from all those around her, gives birth and raises the very Son of God – and I’m sure her accomplishments do not end there. In no way could these people have achieved such greatness if they had clung to their ideal life and predicaments – but they inherited so much more because they were willing to follow God and trust Him. In the same way, God’s bigger purposes for our lives will always eclipse our own silly plans – and we will be ever closer to Him if we choose to trust Him and His goodness, and not fight the grand destinies that He has laid out for us.
A brief caveat – because there is never the guarantee that we will witness the payoff of our struggles in our lifetimes due to our faith. The story is not about us – we are just side-characters in God’s heroic narrative, and we must be willing to accept that our lives may be part of the sacrifice that brings about bigger change. Personally, that thought makes me uncomfortable, but that’s also partially due to the fact that I think I’m incredibly important. Interestingly, God thinks I’m important too in a different way – which is why He’s excited to use me… just perhaps not in the way I’m convinced is brilliant. It’s a weird thing to trust in that.
God is not afraid to destroy our plans – so we should not be afraid either.