This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.
If we read just this part of the Christmas story we would probably assume that Mary & Joseph’s plans pretty much derailed here. Imagine them, preparing for their future together when this curve ball appears on the horizon – a baby? That wasn’t in the plans was it?
This passage makes me think about my own plans in life, because I’m an organiser, I like to know where I am heading. So when my own plans were derailed a few years ago I found it tough…
In my thirties, running my own business, with a lovely family, I really thought my life was exactly where I wanted it. Then, I became ill…
It started with a sinus infection, but I never completely recovered and was left totally exhausted. After various tests I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). This was not what I wanted to hear. I wanted a cure, something to take it all away, but that didn’t happen and eventually I became so unwell that I had to sell my business and I took a year off from working, to recover.
Months earlier, I had decided to devote my life to Jesus after years of doubt & disbelief. So, in some respects having this year off was a wonderful and precious time, giving me time both to be with my family, and to fuel my newly ignited faith (as well as rest!). However there were times when I was really low. I had given up everything that I had planned, all that I had made happen. Being a Christian made me look at life in a new way but still, in the midst of illness I struggled with why God would let me be so ill, why he wasn’t healing me, why life wasn’t going according to my plans.
In amongst it all, I clung onto the words of Jeremiah 29: 11:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”
Because, even though I couldn’t understand it all, I still had hope in Jesus. And hope was the thing that kept me going. Hope that I would recover & that my life could be useful once again. And in that hope, as my own plans were completely derailed, God formed new ones. Totally unexpected ones, that I could never have imagined or planned myself.
Now some years later, I am mostly well. And the new plans God formed? Well I’m now training to be a Vicar in the Church of England! Every time I think about that, I have a little chuckle to myself. I had so many plans for my life and they were nowhere near this! But I also know that this is where I am ‘supposed to be’, this is my purpose and my place and I love it.
So I really want to encourage you: if your plans have been derailed, cling on to hope. God doesn’t waste anything and you never know what other plans might come along!
Jules is part of the Share the Hope team and works for The Point Church in Sussex. She is a wife, a mum of three and an Ordinand (training for ministry) in the Church of England. She is passionate about taking the message of Jesus outside of the church.
Do you know someone who is suffering from a long term or chronic illness? Can you do something to encourage them today or this week? Sufferers of chronic illness often become isolated as they can be house bound or worse, hospital bound; missing out on seeing friends and losing track of daily life in the outside world. Bring some hope to someone who really needs it today by visiting them or taking along something to encourage them. Believe me, it can make all the difference.