BY: JENNIFER PARK
Many are the plans in a person’s heart,
but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.
It is natural to feel torn and devastated when you realize that you’ve failed in something despite years of hard work and dedication. We all have that something that we chase after—a goal or a dream that motivates us and drives us in certain directions. We run a long and tiring race, but when we think we see the finish line right ahead, we realize that we’ve been running the wrong course. Then what? As Christians, are we expected to accept that it was just not in God’s will and move on? That’s what I was told when I found myself in a position where I was so close to the end only to find myself back at the start.
Earlier this semester, I learned about prayer and God’s answers to those prayers while studying the book of James with sisters from my fellowship. God only answers our prayer when we ask with the right heart. There are certain things that we ask for with a self-centered heart; oftentimes they are worldly pursuits that we desire. These selfish prayers will not always be answered, but I was assured that if it was in His will, anything and everything would work out for the best.
Although I acknowledged it at the time, the idea of “God’s plan is sovereign” was much harder for me to accept when something that I had planned and worked two hard years for slipped through the cracks. I felt like I had been thrown to the side of the curb and I lacked the faith to believe that things would work out. I started to question what He had in store for me, and in the back of my mind I even began to doubt his existence. If God was really there and He really loved me, why would He just watch as I wasted so much time and effort on something that He was never going to give me in the first place? Why couldn’t He give me a sign earlier on telling me that I was on the wrong track? And how could I possibly know that what I choose to pursue is or is not in His plans? Couldn’t anyone argue and justify that their desires align with His will? What if I don’t want what He has planned…what if I want out…? As the questions started to pile, I started to resent God as I sat there asking how this was possibly NOT in His plans for me. Where was I supposed to go from there?
I didn’t realize it at the time, but the night of the incident was the first time I reached out to God in genuine prayer. Although it was out of anger and frustration, I had never longed for answers and reassurance from Him like I did that night. I was fighting a plethora of emotions and thoughts from anger to sadness to an overwhelming fear of what was to come. That was a Friday night.
Monday morning, I received a call that was without a doubt an answer to my prayer and God’s sign of reassurance. And with tears of joy I prayed to God with a thankful heart and acknowledged for the first time that good things happened through God’s grace and glory. Until that day I had always turned to God and blamed him in times of trials, but proudly gave myself all the credit with an accomplishment or success.
I may not have succeeded in getting what I desired, but I came to realize that what He had in store for me was beyond my own expectations and plans for myself. This short but life-changing trial not only strengthened my faith in Him, but also cleared a lot of the doubt that I had about submission in the Christian life. Although not many Christians have the audacity to say “my life is my own,” we oftentimes live our lives believing it. We make plans for our days, months, years, and mold our lives according to what we want. When things don’t work out as we planned, we get frustrated and even discouraged at times.
I learned from this experience that what you think you lost is really nothing compared to what God actually has laid out for you. It is said that God answers our prayers one of three ways: ‘yes’, ‘not yet’, or ‘I have something better in mind’. I realized that God’s plans for us are not always crystal clear. We will all fall and struggle throughout our lives as we try and align our plans according to His. But if you get to the end of the race and realize you ran the wrong course, pray to God for strength and joyfully start over knowing that He will lead you to the end.