Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Lately, I've picked up a book called "Plan B," and wanted to post some tidbits here from it, because I'm finding it easy to read, but one of those that you just want to savor. It's packed with wisdom.
As a side note, I came across this book thru a blog that recommended it. When that happens, I usually stick it on my wish list on amazon. But one day the thought occurred to me to check the library. BINGO! If you're a local to San Antonio, I hope you're tapping into the resources of the library. You just login in to your account online, look up a book, and if they have it, you ask for it to be held at the location nearest you. Here's the thing - they'll transport it from any of the other libraries across town! Then it's super easy to just walk in, get it off the hold shelf, and check out. Which is great because I can't "browse" in the library and keep 3 little boys quiet and still for very long...I also can't juggle very well. Makes sense, right? ;)
By the way, the day I decided to check the library, I found 12 (!) books that I'd had on my wish list! Now I have way more reading than I could possibly do for awhile... So proceed with caution...
On to the book. It's by a pastor, Pete Wilson, and is called "Plan B: What do you do when God doesn't show up the way you thought He would?"
Not that I've suffered any major traumas lately, but my thoughts have been on this a lot as I've watched many dear friends suffer, often in unexpected, unpreventable, and sudden ways.
He talks about how none of us really expect suffering (how could you? Gee, when I get cancer, I'll plan to....?), and we often have dreams that at some point will get shattered. Real uplifting thought, right? He mentions how, as you're suffering through a trial, and see others who aren't, it's easy to think you're alone. Insert the first quote I love: "No matter what has happened or how you feel, please know you're not alone. Because here's what I'm learning: everyone needs healing. Everyone. And everyone needs healing for our brokenness."
Maybe it's a sign of maturity (read: growing older) but that's been in my head a lot lately. We're all broken. Broken by our own sin, broken by what others have done to us, broken by things beyond our control. Broken.
Quote #2: "I think we all have questions that plague our minds. For many people it's the basic question of 'Does God exist?' I don't want to wrestle too much with that one. In my opinion there is too much evidence for God's existence for me to spend very long questioning it. No. The question that resurfaces for me again and again and again has more to do with the unexplainable pain and hurt in this world...and while I've spend a lot of time studying and pondering, I have to be honest and say I'm still not sure I understand why."
This is where I am and have been for awhile. I've posted my thoughts on it before with the "Sovereign God" post. I know there are reasons, and I know most are beyond our comprehension. But that doesn't stop my inquisitive nature. Sometimes I think, "Oh, God, if you could just show us a little more of the why...it would make it easier..."
So I love where this pastor goes with this...he says he decided to spend time with the people in the Bible who faced their own shattered dreams. Novel thought, huh? And he starts with a man who I just happen to also be planning to spend time with this semester: David, in I & II Samuel. As the promised-to-be-king finds himself being hunted by the current King Saul, what does he do? He runs. Just like we do when we figure out that our dream isn't going to happen after all, and we take full control, not allowing God to lead. "You see, I believe David is making a huge mistake, the same mistake so many of us have made throughout our lifetimes. He assumes he understands God and his ways. He thinks he knows what God should be doing. And when God doesn't handle things the way he expected, David just gives up. There's a very important lesson here for every one of us. We get ourselves into all kinds of trouble when we assume God must think and feel as we do."
"Someone once said 'Adversity introduces a man to himself.'"
"John Quincy Adams once said 'Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.'"
Then he talks about how, as David fled from King Saul, he asked the priest Ahimelech if he has any weapons, and he says only the sword of Goliath, the Philistine you killed. Instead of realizing this is a reminder from God of His faithfulness to David, he just grabs the sword and keeps running. Often, when we're hurting, we refuse to listen to those reminders from God.
"Like David, I have learned that deep hurt and shattered dreams have a way of blinding us to the character and beauty of God."
"When we give up on God, we easily fall into harmful behavior that hurts ourselves and others. All we can think of is easing our discomfort, leaving the pain behind..."
Peter Scazzero: "In our culture, addiction has become the most common way to deal with pain. We watch television incessantly. We keep busy running from one activity to another. We work seventy hours a week, indulge in pornography, overeat, drink, take pills---anything to help us avoid the pain. Some of us demand that someone or something (a marriage, sexual partner, an ideal family, children, an achievement, a career, or a church) take the loneliness away. Sadly the result of denying and minimizing our wounds over many years is that we become less and less human, empty shells with painted smiley faces. For some, a dull, low-level depression descends upon us, making us nearly unresponsive to all reality."
A big moment for me was when the author pointed out that David's lying and manipulating the priest Ahimelech resulted in Saul killing him and 85 (!) other priests and their families for helping David. The point is, in our running, we often harm others. David admits later that he was fully responsible. Chuck Swindoll says this about David's life at this point: "David had a position and he lost it. He had a wife and he lost her. He had a wise counselor and he lost him. He had a friend and he lost him. He had self-respect and he lost it. Not unlike Job, it hit him with such back-to-back force, his head must have spun for hours."
Then the author encourages us that when things seem out of our control, this is no time to run, but rather a time when you need God more than ever before. Just like David, once he started listening to God again, things will get better.
Then there's timing. It's usually when you really want to give up that things are about to change. C.S. Lewis, in the Screwtape letters, had the senior demon Screwtape, write this to his mentee, about hwo to use a human's fatigue during a time of trial to persuade the man to give up: "Let his inner resolution be not to bear whatever comes to him, but to bear it 'for a reasonable period' --and let the reasonable period be shorter than the trial is likely to last. It need not be much shorter....the fun is to make the man yield just when, had he known it, relief was almost in sight."
"If you are going through a difficult time in your life, don't buy into these lies. I know that persevering isn't easy...Despite what your current circumstances are telling you, God is for you. He is there. He is working things out for your good."
Then, many years later, as his son attempts to take his throne from him, David decides to not fight, but to let him have it. As they're packing up to leave, the priests bring the Ark of the Covenant (God's presence), but David tells them to leave it. "If the Lord is pleased with me, He will bring me back and will let me see both it and Jerusalem again. But if the Lord says he is not pleased with me, I am ready. He can do what He wants with me."
"In this moment David is doing more than giving up his throne. He's specifically recognizing the fact God is God and he is not!...Just because my will won't be done, he's saying, doesn't mean God's will won't be done."
"The greatest of all illusion is the illusion of control."
"We want to control the outcomes in our lives. We want to win if at all possible. We want to be right. We want it done our way. This powerful desire leaks into our marriages, our jobs, our parenting."
"Here is the deal when it comes to your shattered dreams and unmet expectations. When life doesn't turn out the way you thought it was going to turn out, you may think you're losing control. But the truth is, you never had control in the first place. The only thing you do control is how you respond to your disappointments and your unexpected obstacles. And here you have some options." Carry the baggage, keep trying harder, or say "Not my will, but Your will. I'm not in control here. You are."
"Giving up control is difficult and even painful, but it makes room for God to work, healing us from past pain and helping us move forward, hopefully into a fresh future."
He points out how Mary, mother of Jesus, when the angel comes to tell her of her coming pregnancy simply says "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word." (Luke 1:38)
"With these word, she lets go of her plan, her way, her dreams, her expectations, and her will...and makes open a channel for God to change the world."
"...while I would never desire a shattered dream or wish a major disappointment on anyone, I've discovered that Plan Bs have a good side too. They almost always grant us opportunities to stretch and draw closer to God."
"Plan B situations force us to rely on a power beyond ourselves."
Pete Wilson then points to the story of Joshua and the children of Israel being instructed by God to cross the Jordan River while it's in flood stage. The Jordan runs from 7000 feet above sea level with Mount Hermon, down to the Dead Sea, which is the lowest body of water on earth, 1300 feet below sea level.
"God is teaching His people: I have so much power, and I want to minifest it in your life. But if you want to see my power, you have to take the risk. You have to take the step. You have to take the spiritual risk of trusting me first."
"We have to take the risk if we're going to live the kind of lives God has called us to live, to be the people God dreamed of when He thought us into existence. So many miss out on this designed life because we make an unconscious vow that we will only trust ourselves and the things we think we can control."
"God's power generally gets released when somebody trusts Him enough to obey Him. Did you notice how God didn't part the water until the priest put a foot into it? And don't you hate that?"
"with faith...we have to move before we're sure."
"Long before he became the leader of his people, long before he stood at the Jordan, Joshua spent a lot of time face to fave with God (in the tent of meeting). That's why he's able to trust God when others can't. That's why he's able to step out bravely when others are retreating."
"He's learned the truth that makes allt he difference: constant contact with the Creator is essential to transformation living. If you want faith enough to live the life God's called you to live, time with God is simply a must. And that applies double when you're facing a Plan B situation."
"..trust takes practice."
"And while it's possible to muster up faith in the stress of a Plan B situation, it's a lot wiser to lay the groundwork ahead of time. When we've taken the time to understand God's character, faith comes easier. When we've experienced His faithfulness, it's easier to be brave. And the more we spend time in His company, the more ready we are to step forward when he says it's time."
"And that's another secret to faith and courage and trusting God in our Plan B situations. There's timing involved---God's timing."
"You might be terrified. You might be depressed and overwhelmed. You might be wandering aimlessly, not knowing what to do next. But now is the time to watch and wait for what God is going to do. Because as Psalm 31:15 reminds us, our lives and times are in God's hands."
"What we really fear is the unknown. We're afraid of what we can't see, what we can't anticipate, what can jump out at us, what can go bump in the night. We're afraid of being disoriented and vulnerable, at the mercy of forces beyond our control. Being in the dark, which usually accompanies a Plan B, reminds us of our uncertainty and inadequacy in the face of all the bad things that can happen to us or those we love."
"Recognizing threats could possibly save your life---which is the purpose of fear in the first place. The problem is that your brain doesn't always interpret threats correctly. It can send out false alarms. It can tell you to fear something that isn't really a threat. It can exaggerate the nature of the threat. It can also get stuck on worry and anxiety, fixating on a possible threat that may not even happen."
"So while your brain's fear mechanism is there to protect you, it can be a problem, especially in stressful Plan B times. It can perpetuate feelings of fear that, if trusted, will keep you fenced in a safe little area away from opportunity and growth and the life God has for you."
Erwin McManus - "Our fears establish the limits of our life."
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of the world....
pattern of hurry...
pattern of debt...
pattern of fear in our culture, probably made worse by constant media presence. We're constantly alerted to possible sources of danger, conditioned to see threats all around us. We're instructed to cover our tails, to trust no one, to avoid failure at any cost. We're especially set up to feel threatened by whatever is outside our fence..."
How do we break free? Proverbs 3:5 "Trust the Lord with all your heart, and don't depend on your own understanding."
"The implication here is that we can't always trust our own minds because they've been trained by the patterns of this world...in fact, God may call us to run in a direction diametrically opposed to where our fearful minds tell us to go."
We have to discern what is a good fear, and what is unnecessary.
"The beauty for those of us who claim to follow Christ is that we can trust in something far more reliable than our own thinking or the thinking of the world around us to help us make those judgments."
"Dying people almost always talk about how they finally 'get it.' They understand they've spent too much of their lives worrying about things that weren't worth worrying about and fearing things that just weren't worth fearing. They usually long to have those moments of life back."
Earl Nightingale once famously compared worry to a fog that can keep us from seeing tings as they really are. He went on to point out that 'a dense fog covering seven city blocks to a depth of 100 feet, is composed of something less than one glass of water.' Categorizing our common worries, he said 40 percent of the things we worry about never happen."
"Incidentally, the Greek word translated "worry" that is used throughout this passage in Matthew ('You cannot add time to your life by worrying, Matt. 6:27) literally means, "to be drawn in different directions."
"The longer I live, the more I'm convinced that we are fashioned for faith, not for fear and worry. To live in fear is to live against the reality of our creation."
"We don't really have a fear problem. We have a faith problem. Fear without faith is a big problem. Fear without faith will eat you alive."
"I've noticed that even those of us who have trusted our heavenly Father with our eternities often have a tough time trusting Him with our tomorrows..."
"We shouldn't be like everyone else! Our response to the treats we encounter should be so out of the ordinary that people are amazed. Not that we're not concerned, not even that we're not fearful, but we should react differently to threats from the world because our hope is anchored elsewhere."
So what's the alternative to paralyzing fear of the unknown, and exhaustive worrying? Jesus spells it out in Matthew 6:33 "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you as well."
"At this point Jesus isn't just inviting us to simply change our perspective. He's inviting us into an entirely different way of thinking and living. He wants us to make His agenda for the world--- His 'kingdom' --our first priority. Even in the midst of my crisis? Yes, especially in the midst of your crisis. Because your crisis will become less of a crisis when you replace your fear of the unknown with a healthy fear of God."
Oswald Chambers: "The remarkable thing about fearing God is that when you fear God you fear nothing else; whereas if you do not fear God, you fear everything else."
"you will fear it until you surrender it!"
"His kingdom first...our wills, our concerns, our plans, desires, and dreams...second."
"Have you ever had a hard time enjoying a certain season of life because you're afraid the bottom might fall out?"
(For instance, the story of Joseph...)
"What would you do if you were absolutely confident God was with you? ...When you respond in your current circumstances as if you were confident that God is there, you will see God in the circumstances. Maybe not immediately, but eventually...The problem comes when we allow our circumstances to distort our perspective and we miss God....When life isn't turning out the way we'd hoped, we almost always default to feeling as if God has abandoned us."
"When our plans, dreams, and desires crumble, our faith tends to take a hit."
"And yet the truth is that God is most powerfully present even when he seems most apparently absent...Even when we can't see Him or feel Him, all the circumstantial evidence of our lives will testify to His presence. That is, if we're willing to pay attention."
When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Gen 39:3ish
"Things are going well for Joseph because he believes the Lord is with him.
How do I discover God's will for my life? Maybe I wasn't in God's will and if I get back, I won't be in Plan b anymore...
"When people ask me how they can know God's will for their lives, I tell them the best first step is to know God. Beyond that, I really don't have any steps. You have to understand that knowing God's personal will for your life, knowing His specific will for your life, is not a science. There is no magical equation. It's often a matter of trial and error. Sometimes we get it all wrong. And sometimes we have no clue whether we're getting it right until much later."
And when things don't go as planned, what do we do next? Sit around wondering what to do next, when it'll happen, and how? The author suggests that the only thing that matters is why. Joseph had no control of what, when, and how, but he could choose why he does what he does. "He can live intentionally, choosing to trust God in all his circumstances and allow his life to be used for God's purposes."
"You may not get to choose what your future is going to be, but at any given time you do get to choose why you're living the way you do. If you focus on the why, the what, the when, and one way or another, the other details will work themselves out."
"Our focus on the what, when, and where in our Plan B situations proves we often misunderstand something important about God's will --- which is that it's often a process, not a final destination....Just because life doesn't turn out the way you thought, that doesn't mean you missed God's will."
Rick Warren: "God is more interested in your character than your comfort."
Erwin McManus: "The process of becoming the person God wants us to become usually doesn't come from success, success, success. It's loss, success, failure, success, heart break, success, disappointment, success."
"In other words, our view of what God wants and what He is doing in our lives is way too limited...We think our suffering is a sign that we're getting something wrong, not evidence that God is at work to teach us and bring us blessing."
And this is the point where I stopped, weeks ago, and realized that if I keep posting my favorite parts, I might as well type out the whole book. This is only a taste of it - maybe about a third. It's an easy-read, as you can see by all these quotes. Yet it's one you'll want to take time to savor. It was like a salve to my soul, and reminded me of how important my faith is, not just my knowledge of who God is. Sorry, that probably doesn't make sense. ;)
One other part that I didn't quote is where he talked about the cliche "God won't give you more than you can handle." He says this is just flat out wrong. Of course, the connotation is that He will help you handle it. But still, it was something that was confirming to me...
If you want to buy it, you can find it here.
The advantage to the library was that I got to test it out. I read the book, which really isn't very long, and returned it, but I'm not done with it. I'll be adding it to my library and hoping to be able to share it's wisdom and comfort with anyone dealing with a Plan B.