Even if life turns upside-down

Ever been in one of those seasons in life where nothing feels stable? It’s like you’re trying to walk along the beach as the tide is rolling out, taking all the sand with it from under your feet. You aren’t sure where to stand because no ground is solid enough to support your weight. It’s an awkward dance, roaming the beach while the sand slides out from under you.

Welcome to my life

That’s sort of where life is for me right now. And it’s not just me. I know several people who are in similar predicaments. Life has thrown a curve ball they never expected. The job didn’t end up being a good fit. The job opportunity fell flat. People have passed away. New children have been born. New friendships are beginning, and some friendships are falling apart. New stories are starting, and others are ending.

Just about everyone I know is facing major transitions in their lives, and as I sit here this morning trying to knock out several thousand words on a novel, I’m tempted to despair. So much hurt and pain is happening right now. So many people are struggling with friendships and relationships and jobs and finances. People are scared and uncertain and feeling scattered. And I want to fix it. But I can’t. I can’t even fix my own problems. And some days it’s enough to make me want to give up.

I’m doing it wrong

That’s when I remember I’m doing this all wrong. In those moments I have to step back and remind myself who exactly is in charge here. It’s not me. And it’s not you either. None of us have the power to change much of anything in our lives, not without help. When we get to these points in life (and all of us do), we have to hold on to something. And the only anchor worth holding onto is God.

God doesn’t change (Malachi 3:6). He’s the same today as He was 10,000 years ago. He’ll be the same 10,000 years from now. Not like us. We change all the time, finding new and improved ways to identify ourselves or uncover value in ourselves. And because God doesn’t change, we can trust that He’ll always keep His promises (Numbers 23:19).

It’s okay to feel hurt

instagram upside-downSo life hasn’t turned out the way you thought it would. Join the club. Peoples’ lives rarely work out the way we expect them to. That’s not a reason to give up or stop believing that God can do something miraculous. That’s when God does His best work.

Maybe something you thought was certain fell apart, and you’re hurting. It’s okay to hurt. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to not be okay. Nobody is okay, not really. As long as the world is broken and people are broken, “okay” is just a word we say to cover up what we’re actually feeling inside. But just because we’re not okay doesn’t mean God isn’t able. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

It doesn’t always help to remember that God’s got everything under control. Sometimes you’re just so hurt and so frightened and so unsure that you just need to feel sad, and I get that. And that’s okay too. But don’t make the mistake of thinking God doesn’t hear you, because He does. And don’t confuse His patience or His perfect timing for tardiness (2 Peter 3:9).

Nothing in life stays the same. Everything changes. Our dreams, our preferences, our stories, our families, our friendships. God is the only stable ground. He’s the only rock we can stand on that we can trust will stay put. (Psalm 18:2)

Our only hope

Life may be upside down for you right now. Or maybe you can see the chaos coming toward you like a tidal wave that threatens to sweep away the life you’ve built for yourself. Don’t assume God doesn’t know. He does, and He cares. And He’s your only hope.

Hebrews 6:18Knowing that God doesn’t change, that He always keeps His promises, that He offers hope to the hopeless, and that He is always good—maybe it won’t fix your troubles today. But maybe it’ll give you a different perspective on them. (Hebrews 6:13-19) Because it’s possible for life to be hard and good at the same time, just like you can be hurting and full of joy at the same time.

It all comes down to how you choose to see the trouble in your life. Yes, it can feel overwhelming, unfair, undeserved, and even malicious at times, but if that’s how you choose to see it, you’re missing the point. And you’re choosing to see God as an enemy who wants to hurt you, and nothing is further from the truth. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Breathe. Step back. Shut your eyes and listen to what God is telling you.

He’s got this. He’s got you, and all the little things (or big things) that you’re worrying about, He’s already figured out. And maybe He won’t give you a magic lamp and grant you three wishes. He won’t snap His fingers or wiggle His nose and solve all your problems. But you can be sure that however He chooses to act, it’ll be good, even if it doesn’t feel like it right away.

Grocery lists and God’s plan for our lives

Even though I don’t like to admit it, I prefer to be organized. I prefer to have a plan. Now, that doesn’t mean that I can’t be spontaneous. On the contrary, I am more spontaneous than I am organized. But at the same time I don’t think someone can be truly spontaneous until they have a plan and know what kind of time they have.

I have a routine I follow every morning. And I have to follow that routine or I forget things. And when I’m out of the routine, I always feel like I’m missing something. Like a grocery list at the store. I have to write down the things I need or I will buy things I don’t need and forget about the things I do. It didn’t used to be that way. When I was in college, I could remember everything I needed without a list.

Planning takes a lot of work, though, because you have to think of everything. Even planning a trip to the grocery store takes some foresight because you have to think about the things you need for the whole week or the whole month or however long you shop for. How many meals will you eat at home? How many people will you be feeding? What do you already have that you don’t need to buy? Do you clip coupons? Do you only go to one store or do you go to three to get the best deals you can?

Once you can figure all those questions out and make your list, when you go the store and have a question, you know what the plan is. You know how many meals you need to make out of that one super-expensive roast, which is why you’re buying it instead of its cheaper equivalent. And even though it would be really great to buy a tub of name brand ice cream, it’s really cheaper to buy the off brand and it does just as well.

Having a plan is something of a comfort because you will have an answer when questions pop up. Just refer to the plan. And I don’t care how spontaneous of a person you are, that holds true for everyone. When you have questions, you want answers that tell you the plan (whatever that plan is) is still in motion.

Today’s verse is Jeremiah 29:11.

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

This verse has been cropping up all over the place recently. I’m not going to go into the history and the background of this verse. You can do that in a blog post I did back in February. Today I just wanted to think about what it means that God has plans for us.

If we think our plans are good, imagine how much better God’s plans are! It goes without saying that they would be good, designed to give us hope.

And for me, that’s encouraging. Because I have a lot of questions right now. I have questions about all sorts of things, ranging from fairly insignificant to life changing in their scope. And they are questions that no one can answer other than God because only He knows what’s going to happen.

But when I have questions about where God is leading me, all I have to do is refer to His plan. Of course, I don’t know all of His plan, but the Bible tells me everything I need to know.

God created the world.
God created us.
We rejected God.
We were going to die and be separated from Him eternally.
God saved us even though we didn’t deserve to be saved.
He is coming back to take us home someday.
And until that day comes, He walks with us through trials and troubles, teaching us how to trust Him.

That’s the plan. The plan right now is wait. The answer is simply because God isn’t ready to take us home yet. There are too many people who don’t know the truth and who have never been given an opportunity to change their minds.

So when I have questions about why I’m going through the things I’m going through, all I have to do is to remember that God has a plan for me and for my life. And whatever its eventual outcome, it’s a good plan. And I just have to remember that God’s plan for right now is still in motion. Nothing is chaos when it comes to God.

And much like knowing that I just need one bag of celery from the store because I’m not having any company this week, I know that today God’s plan for me is to go to work, complete my responsibilities to the best of my ability, and love people with all my heart while I’m waiting for Him to come back for us.

That’s the plan. Now it’s up to me to follow it.