“Man plans and God laughs.”
This phrase is a restatement of an old Yiddish proverb. The original wording of the phrase is “We plan; God laughs.” If we keep going down the rabbit hole, we learn this particular phrase takes its inspiration from the book of Psalms.
At least three times in the Psalms, the author notes that God does in fact laugh at the planning and plotting of humanity. If you’d like to check it out for yourself, the passages are Psalm 2:4, Psalm 37:13 and Psalm 59:8.
This is one of those statements that is funny because we know it’s true. Each of us can look back over the landscape of our lives and recall moments when our best-laid plans brought about less-than-desirable results. It is more than likely we also can think of close calls, moments when we made our plans and due to circumstances beyond our control, we were rerouted down new paths.
As we further reflect, we are forced to recognize the path God had prepared for us, though not what we had planned nor what we would have chosen, brought about unexpected but incredible outcomes that were better than we could have imagined on our own. What makes it humorous is how frequently it is the case.
Several instances come to mind when I consider my own life, but my favorite example comes from my time as a youth pastor. Planning was an important part of my job. It was the running joke amongst my youth pastor friends that we were part-time preachers and full-time travel agents.
While that is quite an exaggeration, I did spend a great deal of time planning and preparing for activities and events that I hoped would help students connect with one another and with Jesus. And I hoped they would have a good time while doing it.
In 2006, we planned to take our students to a music festival in Mount Union, Pennsylvania. The day before the event, I received a call informing me the festival grounds had experienced torrential rains of biblical proportions and it was likely that the festival would be canceled due to flooding.
Later that day, I checked the festival website and was greeted by pictures of pieces of stage and speakers floating on several feet of water. The festival was indeed canceled. With only hours until we were to depart, I was forced to make a decision. I either had to cancel the event altogether or come up with a Plan B.
I called my leadership team and we began frantically brainstorming what we might be able to do on such short notice. We came up with an incredibly simple plan. We would take the students to Kings Island for a day and then take them to camp at Turkey Run State Park. It was relatively cheap, it was easy and it was extremely unorganized, but it happened. It wasn’t what I had planned, but it ended up being one of the most impactful and purposeful experiences of my ministry career.
If you were to talk to the leaders and students who were involved in my ministry during those years, they would all tell you that Plan B was their favorite activity. We didn’t get to listen to any major recording artists that week, but we sat around campfires and sang worship songs together. We didn’t listen to any deep preaching, but we talked about the struggles we were facing and encouraged one another with the truth of scripture.
I don’t know how things would have played out had things gone according to my plan, but I’m 100% positive it wouldn’t have been as memorable and meaningful as the path God led us down.
Proverbs 19:21 reads, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Things don’t always go as we planned, and praise God for that. Some of the greatest blessings in my life have come from unexpected and often undesirable redirections.
While we might see the failure of our plans as an inconvenience, it often is revealed to be an act of divine providence and grace. As it says in Romans 8:28, “We know that all things work for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
The truth is that God’s Plan B is always better than our Plan A. When his purpose prevails, we may find ourselves in unexpected and uncomfortable territory, but it will ultimately be good.
The Rev. Jeremy Myers is the lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Seymour. Read his blog at jeremysmyers.com. Send comments to [email protected]