When Best-Laid Plans Don’t Go As Planned

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you.” — Psalm 32:8-9

About four years ago I decided I needed to be married and have my first kid by age 28. Because I was perfecting the art of submitting to God, I eventually was willing to compromise and settle for being in a serious relationship by age 28.

God did not cooperate with that well-thought-out plan. My attempts at relationships failed and dating seemed next to impossible.

So I turned my attention to other things; however, it seemed that when I prayed for roses, I got thorns. Friends easily received what were the desires of my heart and that left me angry, upset and questioning God’s care for me. Too often I jumped on the “God doesn’t know what He’s doing” bandwagon as I struggled mightily with feelings that raged against God’s truth.

There’s something in the human heart that yearns for justice and is quick to shake its little fist at God when we perceive He’s doing us wrong by withholding something from us. What makes this even more painful is when our heart is crying out for a desperate need — healing, a breakthrough, a long-awaited answer to prayer — and in return we hear…nothing (or so it seems).

When we come to this point, we have a choice — turn away from God or draw near to Him. I chose the former. I mentally checked out of worship, and my prayers were impersonal and cold. I nursed my wounded heart instead of taking it to God. I became stubborn against God’s plan for my life and His reassurances that He was working on His time table to do a good work in my life.

I will counsel you…

God used Psalm 32:8-9 to speak to my heart during that difficult season when I was desperately trying to find a life path along with dealing with some major problems. Looking back, I understand He wanted to reassure me that I needn’t worry myself sick about my future because He was going to instruct, teach and counsel me.

The difficult part, my friends, was to have a heart receptive to God’s counsel when nothing was going in the direction I thought it should.

The good news for me (and you) is that God promises to counsel His children with a loving eye. Not a critical eye and not with an eye that is looking to keep us from enjoying life, but a loving eye. I had to cling to that promise and apply it to my life. I had to believe that because He loved me, He was working on my behalf even when it looked like the opposite was happening. That truth helped to soften my heart to God’s instruction.

Be not like a horse or mule…

Apparently, neither a horse nor mule is likely to cooperate with the person trying to control it. We use the expression “stubborn as a mule” for a reason. In fact, God gives us some insight into these creatures’ frame of mind by telling us they have no understanding. And because they lack discernment, they must be controlled to come near to the person who wants to make them complete a certain task. It would go easier for the mule if it just cooperated.

God asks His children to walk with Him and heed His instruction by requesting we not be mulish. Personally, this meant I had to learn to identify and eradicate my mulish ways of thinking. Thoughts such as:

God’s way of working in my life is not sufficient to meet my desires or needs

I could do a better job of planning my life than God is doing

I’m not going to cooperate with God until He starts making the things I want to happen, happen

It’s here where I started learning true submission and the necessity of listening to God’s instruction. As I learned this, God eased the pain in my heart from yet-to-be-answered prayer and unfulfilled desires. Like a young child testing the boundaries of a parent, I discovered that God was not going to alter His will to fit what I had decided was best. But rather than force me into His will, He helped me know He wanted me to walk with Him rather than drag me along kicking, screaming and complaining.

Perhaps you are in a similar situation or can relate. I hope to encourage you to keep walking, trusting and trying to let go of those mulish ways.

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