Fear not – God still has a plan.
If you are like me, you probably have believed at some point that God did have a plan for your life, but along the way, you honestly begin to wonder if he is just making it up as he goes along. Have you ever felt like someone made plans that began well, full of good intentions, but sometime later, you feel as if the whole thing is coming off the tracks?
You might have even stated phrases like, “I know that God has a plan, but…”
Can I just challenge you that whatever comes next in that phrase reveals how you believe that you are wiser than the All-Wise One. You believe your ways would be better than his ways. Your thoughts are better than his thoughts.
Even if things aren’t turning out the way you expected, you must decide if you are willing to trust that God still has a plan.
On the Run with Toddler Jesus
In the early stages of Jesus’ life, I have to imagine that Mary and Joseph wondered if God had thought everything through. It was challenging enough for them to accept this heavenly assignment to ruin their reputations to raise the Son of God, but now their obedience had put them in danger. This isn’t how the story was supposed to play out. They should have been esteemed for their willingness and not endangered, but that’s exactly what happened.
After the wise men, astrologers from the east, came looking for the King of the Jews in Jerusalem, King Herod felt insecure and endangered. In a deceitful manner, he asked them to tell him where they found this king so he could worship him (Matt 2:8).
While you can imagine these wise men coming to lavish expensive gifts on this young family was a welcomed and somewhat expected perk of being the caretakers of Jesus, nothing could have prepared them for what happened next. Just as before, Joseph heard from the angel of the Lord in a dream. While last time the dream encouraged him to run towards something, now he was being warned to run from something. In Matthew 2:13, the angel warns him and says, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.”
Without much time to prepare or say goodbyes, Joseph led his family and they departed to none other than Egypt. I wonder how many miles it took before they could travel at ease. Did they ever get to that place where they could look at another traveler on the road without suspicion? When did they hear about what Herod did? The king had made a decree that all male children living in Bethlehem who were two years old and under were to be killed (Matt 2:16). This scriptural clue is what makes scholars believe that the wise men didn’t visit at the nativity but actually visited when Jesus was a toddler.
Imagine it – all of the toddler boys in an entire city were killed because of this king’s rage. This city was full of “weeping and loud lamentation” and each mother was found “weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more” (Matt 2:18). Can you imagine the agony, the sense of despair, that set as a fog over the entire city of Bethlehem? Not only was Jesus in danger from the very beginning, but all who were associated with Jesus were in danger. Just being connected to Jesus put you at risk.
So God made these young parents start over in a city that was not home (Matt 2:15). They had to learn the language, customs, and manner of life in a culture completely foreign to them. And just as they were probably getting settled, God told them to pack up and leave again.
King Herod had died and this family would be safe to return again to Israel (Matt 2:19-21). Just like the ancient Israelites who experienced a welcome into Egypt and later experienced an exodus from Egypt, Jesus fulfills both. All of these details were foreshadowed in Scripture long ago.
As they neared Joseph’s hometown, he was warned not to go there but to raise his family in Nazareth instead (Matt 2:22-23). Why did they have to turn now after they had gotten so close to the way things ought to be? Because God was working in even the seemingly insignificant details by placing them in the specific location that the prophets had said that the Messiah would be raised (Matt 2:23).
What Is God Doing?
Maybe like Mary and Joseph, you feel as if your world has turned upside down. You feel as if you are at a place in life that you never intended to be. And with every change, you question if God still has a plan or are you just left here to fend for yourself.
Just as he did with Jesus’ family, God is using both the good and the bad to fulfill his purposes. God can use both the gifts of the wise and the threats of the kings to fulfill his purposes. He can use both the comforts of the familiar or the chaos of the unfamiliar to fulfill his plan. He is not hindered by travelers or tyrants. He is not impeded by wealth or poverty. He is not fazed by the actions from his hands or the actions from the hands of others.
Fear not – God still has a plan. I still believe today that God still works all things together for the good not for everyone, but for those who love him and feel called according to his purpose (Rom 8:28). So the question is this today: do you love God and do you feel called according to his purpose? Because if you do, both the successes and failures, the tragedies and the triumphs, the good days and the bad, will all be used in your life for God’s glory and your good.
Fear not – God still has a plan and he is working it out this very day.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Just (About) Married.