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God, This Wasn't the Plan

Written by Peter Frey

“God, this wasn’t the plan.”

I’ve prayed this prayer many times in my life, but this time it was different.

It was October 2019. Mary and I had just packed up our life in Boston, where we had spent the last 4 years pastoring and revitalizing a struggling church. We had poured our hearts and lives into that season of ministry, and that season had come to a close.

We were moving to Durham, a city that we knew very little about except that it was the home of Duke University Hospital. The progression of Mary’s lung disease, Cystic Fibrosis, had brought us to Duke — anticipating Mary’s need for a liver and lung transplant. (We tell more of this story in this podcast episode.)

But within a few weeks of arriving to our new home in Durham, I found myself praying that familiar prayer…

“God, this wasn’t the plan.”

This was the same prayer I prayed in 2012 when I took a semester off of seminary because my dad had been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer with only weeks left to live.

“God, this wasn’t the plan.”

This was the same prayer I prayed in 2015, the day we flew home from Scotland, months before we were planning to return from my studies at the University of Edinburgh. Mary’s lungs were struggling, and she needed to be hospitalized in Boston.

“God, this wasn’t the plan.”

I imagine that’s what the Israelites prayed shortly after God delivered them from slavery in Egypt. As they stood on the banks of the Red Sea with Pharoah’s army closing in, they said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt?” (Exodus 11:11). When our idea of God’s purposes seems to be contradicted by our present circumstances, we often pray,

“God, this wasn’t the plan.”

This time, I was praying these words from our home in Durham, not because life had taken a turn for the worse but because it had taken a turn for the better. Mary had started a not-yet-FDA-approved medication that was dramatically and miraculously improving her health. All of the sudden, our plans for last resort organ transplants were put on pause.

Don’t get me wrong. This was incredible. Our wildest dreams were coming true.

But God’s plan still felt confusing. Why did God bring us to Durham if we didn’t need to be here for transplant? Why did God have us step out of ministry if now we had more capacity for ministry than we ever had? What’s God’s purpose in all of this?

So often when I pray, “God, this wasn’t the plan,” I am really saying, “God, I’m struggling to see how these present circumstances fit into my idea of your purposes.” I falsely assume that my vantage point of life would be God’s vantage point, that my timing would be God’s timing, and if I’m honest, that my comfort would be God’s priority.

But I’m not God. He says in Isaiah 55:8-9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

We thought we had come to Durham to fight for Mary’s life, but what if God’s purposes were different than we had imagined? What if God had brought us to Durham to be part of the church plant where we served for the last three years? What if God had us be part of that church plant to grow our hearts for church planting? What if growing our hearts for church planting were God’s way of preparing me to come to Waypoint as a Church Planting Resident? What if planting a church in the Triangle was God’s plan all along when He brought us to Durham?

“God, this wasn’t the plan.”

But HIS plan is always better.

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