I am what many people affectionately refer to as an “administrative nerd.” Organization is my passion…few things bring me as much satisfaction as seeing all things flowing well within any set of parameters, be it in my small business, my day-to-day job, family, friend circles, etc.
As a result, I kind of tend to lose my cool a bit whenever there’s a change in plans.
Such was the case in the early months of 2020, when I—and many a loved one’s—carefully-laid plans for the year began to evaporate one by one, smothered in the tide of COVID-19 closures and cancellations. I wish I could say I handled all the sudden changes with utmost grace and poise, but lying is an offense to the Lord.
Outwardly, I may have retained my cool—at least in part. But for weeks, I was fuming, fretting, and grieving. I complained to God a lot in that time, or complained to my family or friends if I thought God might be tired of hearing about it from me. But I felt a little entitled to moan as birthday, anniversary, friend-reunions and family plans all went up in smoke.
I’m definitely not proud that that was my default. But recognizing it was a valuable lesson God taught me early on in the quarantine madness of 2020.
You know who else had a kneejerk reaction of complaining when things didn’t go his way?
Of all the biblical figures, perhaps none stand so obstinately contrary to the sacrificial “not my will but yours be done” attitude of Jesus than our friend Jonah. I can’t say I have any idea what Jonah’s life was like before God sent him to Nineveh, but I’m willing to bet his administrative idea did not involve hopping onto a camel’s back and riding into the jaws of the enemy (Nineveh being, by gentle terms, a nasty, no good, not-nice place).
So Jonah scampered off to port, hopped on a boat, tried to sail to Tarshish—in the opposite direction, by the way—and…well, most of us know the rest.
Fast forward! Jonah is rescued from the belly of the sea creature, makes his way to Nineveh, does as God tells him…and the people turn! God spares them. And Jonah’s reaction to this change in plan?
This was why he fled, he knew God was just going to spare them anyway, what was the point of this, it would be better if he just died, grumble, grumble…
Jonah leaves the city and sits to wait and see what God will do. God sends a plant to shelter him from the scorching sun (I have it on good authority from my mom, after a pilgrimage to Israel, that shade is hard to come by and more precious than gold under the baking Middle East heat); then God sends a worm to eat the plant. Jonah complains. He’s going to faint, it would be better if he just died, grumble, grumble…
Man oh man, I don’t want to be like Jonah!
Or how about the children of Israel? You know what they did after being rescued from 400+ years of slavery? Went into the wilderness and complained. In fact, they complained and sinned so much that a whole generation didn’t get to see the Promised Land. Sitting in the not-fairness of it all and defaulting to complaints often blinds us so utterly to the provision, protection, and love of God, we march right outside of His will while busily demanding He do it our way, the way we are comfortable with, exactly how we want it to be.
Changes in plan are usually an inconvenience to at least some degree, but if my kneejerk reaction is to grumble, complain, and bemoan my very existence as plans change, that’s a fairly good barometer that my heart is in the wrong place. I’m not looking at the bigger picture; I’m not looking for solutions, or for ways to learn and grow from this. I’m stewing under that scorching east wind, waiting to faint. And I don’t want to be like that!
Inconvenience is a part of life. Plans will change—and it will rock the boat so much we may wish we could just shrivel up and disappear. But the next time something happens to interrupt our carefully-laid plans, let’s try being like Jesus, who changed his course at a whisper from God and stayed sensitive to the doubts, fears, and needs of those around him—the opportunities within the apparent inconveniences:
Around three in the morning, [Jesus] came toward them walking on the sea and wanted to pass by them. When they saw Him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out; for they all saw Him and were terrified. Immediately He spoke with them and said, “Have courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”Then He got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased.
Heavenly Father, when plans change, help me to keep my peace! Help me to look for the lesson. And help me to always find a way to do Your will—even when there’s a change of plan.