Gary’s Newsletter #398 – PLAN B

How do you cope or help others cope when life does not turn out like you were expecting? That’s the theme of Pete Wilson’s recent book, Plan B: What to Do When God Doesn’t Show Up the Way You Thought He Would. It happens to us all at times. A marriage goes sour. A career opportunity doesn’t materialize. A sickness or failure scuttles our life plans. A long-term dream is shattered. In times like these, when our hopes fail to materialize, we revert to a Plan B. This book’s author (that’s him in the picture) is a young pastor – unpretentious, honest, realistic. He tells stories about people he knows and brings in a few Bible characters. And he gives down-to-earth suggestions for recovering and thriving when our A plans collapse:

  • When plans shatter, face reality. Don’t run. Expect to be afraid and confused as you face the unknown.
  • Try to step back from the chaos. Last month a friend hit a major Plan A collapse. At my invitation he dropped everything, drove 500 miles to my house and spent a few days to clear his thinking, pray, grieve, and let the reality sink in. Often this is needed before we start making alternative plans.
  • Recognize that probably you’re not in control of the circumstances. But you can control how you respond. And you need to recognize that God is present and in control. This realization may take time, reflection, prayer, Bible reading and support from others. Usually it involves the recognition that God does not always think and respond like we expect or hope.
  • Plan B situations tempt us to withdraw but we need community more than ever. Also, we need to be authentic before we can experience authentic community.
  • Ponder this: Plan B difficulties….can deliver us from our delusions, our misguided expectations, our egotistical dreams, and deliver us into the actual presence of the God who is our only hope.
  • There are two different types of hope. “One is hoping for something, and the other is hoping in someone.”  God does his best work in hopeless situations.

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    • Rodger Bufford
    • August 26th, 2010

    This reminds me of Julie Exline’s work on disappointment with God. For many of us it is a deeply vexing issue–and one that the church often does fails to help us resolve very well.

    Rodger Bufford

    • Thanks Rodger. This also is reminiscent of Yancey’s book on disappointment with God. We all get there, don’t we? And sometimes the church puts on a happy face and does not give much help (but I think that attitude is changing, especially in younger congregations).

    • Brian Boone
    • August 26th, 2010

    Thanks, Gary, for featuring this book. “Just what the doctor ordered” for me today… and so timely for those we are reaching and serving in our ministry, when Plan B (or C or D or E) is where we land.

    • Your comment is appreciated Brian. It reminds me that you work every day with people who are into Plan B situations, and you oversee dedicated staff workers who must get discouraged when they can’t help all of their Plan B clients. That must put you under pressure a lot more than I realize. I hope everybody who reads this sends a quick prayer heavenward for you.

  1. Gary,

    Would love to see you expand on the blessings of yielding to Plan B … since most of us live there so often!

    Phil

    • You have a great way of pushing me – but always in a good way. I have been thinking about your challenge. In the meantime, try to read Pete’s book. I would like to know if it is helpful to the people to whom you minister – or to you when you go to Plan B next time.

    • Sergio E. Mijangos
    • August 26th, 2010

    We saw recently the beautiful life of a dear family just shattered to pieces, right in front of our eyes. Plan B is such a relevant message for us who work as counselors but also for anyone facing this life full of uncertainties. Excellent article.

    • T.J van der Weele
    • August 26th, 2010

    Thanks Gary,

    I had recently myself a shattering of dreams and hopes. It is so true: face reality, don’t run away, talk to good friends, be willing to face criticism and look at the future, with the lessons learned from the past.

    Téo

    • Téo

      It is good to hear from you again. Thanks for affirming my blog message by sharing from your own experience. That can carry a lot of weight with others.

  2. Pete’s intivation to his friend to spend a few days at his house to clear his thinking, pray, grieve, and let reality sink in is the gift of hospitality at work. The gift is priceless. When disappointment strikes, everyone should have such a friend, or be such a friend.

    • This example was not from Pete, it came from me. My friend came back last week for more space and time to talk. He is making great strides. In part I think this is because he has a place to retreat and reflect. We all need this.

  3. I am in the MIDDLE of God’s plan B for my life! And I am learning on an everyday basis this very thing,

    “Plan B situations tempt us to withdraw but we need community more than ever. Also, we need to be authentic before we can experience authentic community.”

    I love that community is truly where we flourish! Praise God that He made us to live with one another, at the core, we are very very relationship beings:)

    • I agree. But have you noticed that community for one person is not the same community for another. Sometimes community is the members of a small group or local church. Sometimes it is family or a circle of friends. Sometimes community involves a lot of people – like all of one’s friends on Facebook. But often community involves one or two neighbors or work colleagues. Maybe it’s an depth relationship with only one person. For me, my most supportive communities come from my wife and immediate family, a small group of very close friends, and (less often) people at the fitness club where I work out or at the church where we worship.

  4. When I asked God, some time last year, how I was to worship and praise Him in the middle of the failing of plan A, He handed me ‘the cup of suffering’. I said, Great God, thanks! Do you mean it is going to get worse? He didn’t answer that question, but He did say:
    “Take it in both hands.
    Now lift it up to Me. That is worship.”
    I got it.
    Things did get worse and fell apart, but knowing this made me strong to carry what came.

    Last week I listened to Ps Bill Johnson, he told us how, when his father died, he took the grief and hugged it to himself and praised God while he embraced it. He called it taking the opportunity to praise God with sorrow, because, we won’t have that opportunity in Heaven where there is no sorrow.

    Calling it an opportunity is another step. It sure gives me a new perspective. I’m going to give it a go. Are you with me?

    Mathilde

    • I have learned this about Plan B experiences, both from having them and from watching a lot of other people go through them. Usually they are horrible, confusing, painful, often triggers to anger, despair, loneliness and interpersonal conflict. But on the other side, when we begin to get past them, we see that God was there even when he seemed far away. And the Plan B experiences always are valuable growing and learning experiences once we are open to learning and even if we never get back to plan A.

    • hope hurlbut
    • August 30th, 2010

    My experience with Plan B did not have anything to do with me or my life style. It turned out someone was jealous of me, wrote a few lies about me and spread them around with the result that I had to leave my place of service, I was hedged about with restrictions and today I discovered that some people I had trained with who were completely ignorant of my work or even the language I was using have now been recruited (along with others) to fill the gap!

    However, God is so good and is all powerful, so last Saturday I was able to make fresh arrangements to continue the same kind of work in a different setting!!! Talk about timing! Sometimes we get impatient waiting on God’s timing, but last week I needed help in making the arrangements needed for the above and my long time friend said she could not help. Instead another lady even more experienced and more qualified sent an email asking how she could help. To do so she had to travel 11 hours to arrive at the venue on the weekend and 11 hours back to get to her office in time for her appointments this morning. What dedication! Praise the Lord!!!

    • I wonder how often Plan Bs come from what has been done to us. At some time maybe most of us have been hurt and forced into a Plan B situation because of the unjust, sometimes intentionally harmful actions of others. Most often, I think, we look back and see value in what happened, but sometimes even that does not happen. That is what makes it so hard. So we get support from understanding friends, determine to believe that God is in control, and bounce back as best we can. And sometimes the Plan B turns out to be better than the original Plan A. Thanks so much for sharing your story.

    • Bruce Zoeller
    • September 14th, 2010

    I wonder if the failing of our plan “A” is due to us not seeking God’s direction or pressing into the sin in our lives as significantly as God desires us. In other words, we are seeking more of our will for our lives than God’s. The failure of my first marriage was to a large degree because I had not dealt sufficiently with the pride in my life. I am now serving in a career that I have come to believe is the one God has prepared me to serve Him and bring Him glory. But it is not the career I initially was seeking.
    I suspect too often we are more concerned about our plans than God’s glory, thus we get confused about how we fit into God’s wonderful creation.

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