Written by Lauren McDermott

9/5/2017

Sometimes, when God works in your life, it doesn’t mesh well with your plans.


It was one of the best weeks of my life—and I couldn’t speak.

Sometimes, when God works in your life, it doesn’t mesh well with your plans. In the moment, it’s easy to feel wronged. Betrayed, even. Why would a Good Father purposefully thwart the desires and comfort of his children?

This Lord who would hurl a storm at Jonah, send his people into exile, or take away my voice makes it very easy to see the truth in the words of the Prophet Isaiah:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,
declares the Lord.” (Isaiah 55:8)

It was March 9, 2014, and I was embarking on Spring Break for a beautiful week on Catalina Island. Nearly 60 of my closest friends and I had decided to spend our breaks sequestered away from the buzzes and dings of connectedness, instead firmly planting ourselves in the Gospel of Mark. As I began to study Scripture with a small group of my peers, I found ample outlet for tidbits of variegated cultural, textual, and philosophical knowledge I had been accruing over my 22 years.

Perhaps 22 years doesn’t sound like long; but I had earned a reputation the previous year as being the one to look to for answers (even before our teacher).

Unlike Jonah, I can say with some level of confidence that this wasn’t even a conscious decision on my part. I simply take joy in helping others uncover hidden things! And if I look good in the process, well…

But on the morning of the second day, I met a rude awakening. Tearing pain flared in my throat. The barest hint of breath whispering through my lungs threw me into hideous coughing fits that left my ribs feeling bruised and my face swollen. Initially, I saw this as an opportunity to bravely soldier on.

As I trudged into our meeting room, I thought to myself, ‘How will I get everyone to see the point of these passages if I can hardly speak?’

Observing my past self, now, I cringe! As though I was the only one capable of hearing the Voice of God and conveying interpretation of Scripture, in a room full of Christian campus leaders. Pride—more than enough for any one person—had travelled all that way with me onto Catalina Island for Spring Break camp.

By the fourth day, I couldn’t do much more in session than set my head on the table and listen. Breathe, carefully, and listen.

I was frustrated. Exhausted. Feeling faithless after pulling aside many a leader to pray for healing, with still no results. (Because God is a vending machine, right?) Listening to my small group members struggling with Scripture felt agonizing. Perhaps I would have to go find some extra paper to write my enlightening thoughts down for them all.

And yet.

I was listening.

When Jonah ran to his boat, fleeing the presence of the Lord, it wasn’t out of mere cowardice or spite. The Prophet was faced with the uncomfortably large grace of God, resulting in an ethical dissonance of legendary proportions. Jonah’s idea of rightness were suddenly at war with his God’s. So he ran, attempting to hold on to his own reason and values, and resist the transforming presence of the Lord.

It may not have been for the same reasons, but my pride achieved much that same result as Jonah’s running. So long as I was the one dosing out knowledge, I wouldn’t have to learn. I wouldn’t have to confront challenging truth, or examine my own hardened heart.

It was God’s infinite mercy that shut my mouth that week. With my voice gone, using all my focus simply to stay awake and listen, I walked through the last half of Mark. I listened as my peers wrestled with the hard words of our Suffering King, as they mourned his brutal death for our sins, and as their voices took on a disciple’s fervor when he rose to give his people a charge.

In the silence left by my own voice, I had to confront a heart that was unwilling to be molded by the boundless love of our Holy God. And just as Jesus offered forgiveness to faithless Peter, I felt him reaching out to me.

Sometimes, God will change your plans. He may sink your boat. The thing you rely on may be used to rend your comfort and break your rebellion. But I assure you, brothers and sisters, this is mercy.

If you find yourself in such a place, please be encouraged. His way is the best way. Before salvation, there was pain. But he won’t abandon you in the middle. The one who began a good work in you is faithful. He will surely finish it!

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Lauren is a campus missionary on staff with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. As a part of Reality Church Stockton for the past five years, she has served with the Music Ministry and in connecting college students to the local church. In her spare time, she enjoys challenging theological conversation, cats, and psychologically intense movies.