“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19
In the new year of 2017, I recorded some big plans in my journal:
- Create a prayer planner to help people grow in healthy prayer habits.
- Walk alongside our daughter as she planned her wedding; attend our son’s college graduation.
- Continue teaching Bible study at the jail.
My Plans vs. God’s Plans
As a gospel coach and a Type A personality, I enjoy making plans. Every new year, I set aside time to revisit the stories of the “awesome deeds” (Psalm 145:6) God has done in the previous year and to pray and think about what stories he might write in the coming year. I don’t make resolutions, which I know I will break; I make plans, which I hold loosely.
While I don’t think there’s anything wrong with such a practice, I have begun to wonder if my plans, like the desires C.S. Lewis wrote about long ago, might be too “shallow” and too “weak.” Given that we serve a God who is forever doing “brand new things,” I wonder if I am happy “making mudpies in a slum” when what God has planned for me is a “holiday by the sea.” 
In 2017, the year I recorded those plans in my journal, it seemed the Lord had different plans. While our son did graduate from college, and our daughter did get married, and I did continue teaching at the jail, the Lord also wrote a bigger, better story in my life. In August of 2017, when our twenty-two-year-old son was diagnosed with a brain tumor and proceeded to have four brain surgeries over the next nine months, I became more intimately acquainted with the God who was determined to do an astonishing “new thing,” to “make a way in the wilderness.”
In that year, I walked alongside our son as he valiantly fought to recover from four craniotomies and a wound infection. In that year, I cared for my dad as he agonized in his final days of a crushing cancer. In that year, I discovered plans the Lord had for me, plans I never would have made for myself:
- Learn to trust God when you’re so terrified your body trembles.
- Learn to cling to God when you’re so weak and exhausted you hardly recognize yourself.
- Learn to lament when you’re in agony because death is eating away at your dad’s dignity.
God’s Better Plans
The Lord indeed made a way in the wilderness of suffering for our family in that year; the Lord did brand new things in our hearts and minds that we never would have imagined.
As we see the new year stretching out before us, it’s good to make plans and goals. We should look at the past year and see what the Lord has done, and we should look at the coming year and pray about what the Lord might do. But even as we do so, let’s also pray about the better plans he might have for us, the bigger stories he might write in us in the coming year:
Could the Lord have plans to bring us into the wilderness, to allow us to go hungry so that we might learn to feast on “every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3)?
Could the Lord have plans to give us a “thorn in the flesh” so that we might discover God’s surpassing strength in the midst of our profound weakness (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)?
Could the Lord have plans to help us know his heart-and-mind-guarding peace in the midst of a season of turmoil (Philippians 4:7)?
Could the Lord have plans to lead us to forgive an enemy, to tear down the “dividing wall of hostility” that separates us from someone who has deeply betrayed us (Ephesians 2:14)?
Could the Lord have plans to have us serve a stranger, love a neighbor, or care for the sick (Matthew 25:35-40)?
Could the Lord have plans to end a season of sorrow, to fill us with his overflowing joy (Psalm 30:5)?
Indeed, he could have any of these plans for us and many we haven’t yet imagined. The God we serve has already made us “a new creation” in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). The God we serve is in the process of conforming us to the “image of his Son” (Romans 8:29). And one day, on the day Christ returns, the God we serve will finish his work, putting the final touches of Christ’s likeness in us (1 John 3:2). Because we serve a God who is day by day, moment by moment, creating new things in our lives, let’s make plans this year to live in his bigger, better story.
See C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
About the Author:
Elizabeth Turnage is a writer, story coach, and teacher. She founded Living Story to help people learn, live, and love the gospel. She is the author of The Waiting Room: 60 Meditations for Finding Peace & Hope in a Health Crisis and the Living Story Bible Study Series (P & R), Elizabeth offers gospel-centered resources at her blog, www.elizabethturnage.com.
Elizabeth has been married to orthopedic surgeon Kip Turnage for 36 years. They enjoy spending time with their children, Kirby and Amy Anne Turnage, Jackie and Matt Roelofs, Mary Elizabeth and Caleb Blake, and Robert Turnage. When they are not working or visiting their kids, they enjoy doting on their golden doodle, Rosie, the “best-dog-ever”!