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When God’s “Plan A” Falls Through, What’s Next?

Image by Katie Tegtmeyer via Flickr

Suzanne was angry, to say the least. Since her early teens, her only aspirations in life were to be a missionary to Taiwan and to marry a godly man with a similar vision, and she prayed daily about these. She went to a Christian college and, quite miraculously, quickly met a young man who shared her vision for Taiwan. Indeed, the commonalities between them as well as all the “coincidences” that had individually led them to just that college at just that time were truly astounding.

For three and a half years they courted one another, prayed together, attended church together, prepared themselves for the mission field, and fell deeply in love with one another. During their senior year, this man proposed to Suzanne; surprisingly she did not immediately say yes to his proposal. Even though so many pieces had miraculously fallen into place, she needed to have an unequivocal confirmation in her heart that this was the man she was to marry.

For several months, Suzanne and her boyfriend fasted and prayed over the matter. They consulted with their parents, their pastor, and their friends. Everyone concluded that this was indeed God’s will. Before too long, God gave Suzanne the confirmation she needed. While in prayer, she was overwhelmed by a supernatural sense of joy and peace wrapped up with a very clear confirmation that this marriage was, in fact, God’s design for her life.

Shortly after college, the newly married couple went away to a missionary school to prepare for their missionary career. Two years into this training, Suzanne learned to her horror that her husband was involved in an adulterous relationship. He repented but within several months returned to the affair. Despite intensive Christian counseling, this pattern repeated itself several times over the next three years.

During these three years, his spiritual convictions altogether disappeared, including his burden for Taiwan. He grew increasingly argumentative, hostile, and even verbally and physically abusive, even fracturing her cheekbone in one of his fits of rage. Soon after, he filed for divorce and moved in with his lover. Two weeks later, Suzanne discovered she was pregnant.

This left Suzanne emotionally destroyed and spiritually bankrupt. All of her dreams had crashed down on her. She felt that her life was basically over. The worst part of it, however, was not the pain her husband had inflicted on her, but how profoundly the ordeal had damaged her relationship with God.

She could not fathom how the Lord could respond to her lifelong prayers by setting her up with a man he knew would do this to her and her child. Some Christian friends had suggested that perhaps she hadn’t heard God correctly. Others told her that this was God’s will all along and that he loves her so much that he led her down this path to humble her.

I suggested to her that God felt as much regret over the confirmation he had given Suzanne as he did about his decision to make Saul king of Israel. Not that it was a bad decision—at the time, her ex-husband was a good man with a godly character. The prospects that he and Suzanne would have a happy marriage and fruitful ministry were, at the time, very good.

Because her ex-husband was a free agent, however, even the best decisions can have sad results. Over time, and through a series of choices, Suzanne’s ex had opened himself up to the enemy’s influence and became involved in an immoral relationship. Initially, all was not lost and God and others tried to restore him, but he chose to resist the prompting of the Spirit, and consequently his heart grew darker. He had become a very different person from the man God had confirmed to her as a good candidate for marriage.

By framing the ordeal within the context of an open future, she was able to understand the tragedy of her life in a new way. She didn’t have to abandon all the confidence in her ability to hear God and didn’t have to accept that somehow God intended this ordeal “for her own good.” Her faith in God’s character and her love for God were eventually restored.

Understandably, Taiwan was no longer on her heart, but the “God of the possible” always has a plan B and a plan C. He’s also wise enough to know how to weave our failed plan A’s into these alternative plans so beautifully that looking back, it may look like B or C was his original plan all along. This isn’t a testimony to his exhaustive definite foreknowledge; it’s a testimony to his unfathomable wisdom.

—Adapted from God of the Possible, page 103-106

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