How to Respond When Your Plans Don’t Work Out

The summer after my freshmen year in college, I knew for certain what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to do pastoral ministry. Because of this, I changed my major from music to religion, started reading a lot of books and listened to a ton of sermons. Upon graduation my wife Christina and I helped plant a church for two years, all the while I completed my Master’s degree in Religion.

We desired to help plant a church because I desired to plant and pastor a church one day. Christina became the children’s director and took a part time job at a coffee shop, and I took a part time retail job and cleaned banks on the side for a time before taking a part time job at the church. We all know that two people with no kids have the ability to do quite nicely financially, but when they both take a bunch of part time jobs you aren’t necessarily maximizing your financial abilities.

I share this to simply state that we took this route to learn, grow, and prepare ourselves well for our future. Being young and without children gave us the flexibility to do so. In the summer of last year I began to look for what our “next step” might be. I applied to various churches and networked with numerous people seeking an opportunity that would allow me to continue to learn and grow in my pastoral pursuits. But unfortunately…

Nothing was working out.

Possible job opportunities in ministry didn’t materialize and the only one that did ended up not being a good fit for Christina and I. We were confused, upset, and angry that things were not working out. After all, I thought we had “did our time” by sacrificing for the sake of the church we were planting and going to seminary. I was ready to move up the “ministry ladder” (if that even exists) as I had spent the last two years starting from the bottom.

But when things were clearly not working out, I had to start looking for non-ministry jobs. This was frustrating not from the standpoint of having to get job in the “regular” world, but because I began to wish I had done that right out of college, thinking that if I had done so, at this point I would have been looking to get back into some sort of pastoral position doing what I wanted to do instead of now having to find a job doing something I didn’t want to do. This certainly was not the plan. Especially since it was hard not to think the last two years were essentially a waste.

As we fast forward back to the present day, I took a job that is not ministry-related (that I am very grateful for) and we have moved from Wilmington to Raleigh, which is what we wanted to do. And here is where I supposed to say that I am glad that the Lord’s plans for us were different from our own because He knows what is best.

But let’s be honest, I am human and still struggle to always be faithful to wherever God places me. Or feel like I’m not doing much in the lives of others, whether that be encouraging fellow believers in some way, or making a positive difference in the lives of non-Christians around me. I could say that I am learning things right now that I would not have learned had I continued in vocational ministry (and I am!), but that doesn’t make me “happy” not to be able to spend more time doing what I believe I will be doing in the future.

So what do you do when your plans don’t work out the way you expected them? You do your best to be faithful with where God has placed you.

More and more my prayer in life is simply for me to be faithful wherever God puts me. Whether that’s writing a blog, preaching a message, or living out and sharing the Gospel with coworkers. But when things do not go the way we would have planned, it is ok to hurt or to question why. There is nothing wrong with feeling the emotions that God gave you. But how we respond, even in the midst of not understanding, is what is most important.

So I want to do my best to faithful with where God has me currently, no matter how my plans pan out. This clearly won’t always be easy, but having all of your plans happen the way you desired while not being faithful would be tragically worse.

The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.

-Proverbs 16:9

The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the LORD.

-Proverbs 21:31

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